Monthly Archives: December 2013

In South Florida’s Delray Beach, Saltwater is both a brewery and a theme

62670_467280403340045_1194112926_nFlorida’s newest craft brewery opens its doors Dec. 30.

The opening of Saltwater Brewery, in Delray Beach, a seaside city midway between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach on South Florida’s Atlantic Coast, culminates more than 20 months of planning, construction and, of course, some frustration.

Founded by a group of local beer aficionados with the help of a veteran brewer, Saltwater Brewery opens with seven beers flowing from its taps, ranging from an easy-drinking pale ale to a deceptively easy-to-drink Belgian strong ale that clocks in at 10 percent ABV.

Located at 1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach’s main thoroughfare, Saltwater Brewery is housed in a converted 1952-era barn/former antique furniture store adjacent to the CSX railroad tracks that parallel Interstate 95.

A frequent visitor to Florida, I happened to be in Delray Beach just prior to the brewery’s opening and used the opportunity to meet its founders and sample some of the brews. The beers are well crafted, clean, flavorful, well balanced, and each distinct from the other.


Saltwater Brewery founders Chris Gove, brewmaster Bill Taylor, Dustin Jeffers, Bo Eaton and Peter Agardy.

Saltwater, I was told, had its genesis in April 2012, when a group of local beer lovers– founders Bo Eaton, Peter Agardy, Chris Gove and Dustin Jeffers – came together and decided to open a brewery.  Brewmaster Bill Taylor, a 17-year industry veteran who was making beer in Montana at Neptune’s Brewery, joined them a few months later. Despite plans to open in the summer of 2013, construction and sewer issues, regulatory hurdles and the like pushed the date into the fall and then early winter.  “We had a few hiccups,” said Agardy. Millions of dollars and months later, the brewery began producing beer shortly before Thanksgiving. Saltwater’s founders hope to produce 7,500 barrels in their first year of operating their 20-bbl system.

The brewery’s owners said they plan to hew an image for the brewery that conjures up its seaside location with its culture of surfing, fishing and diving and marine conservation. But more than that, “we emphasize quality local beer,” said Agardy, explaining that the brews’ flavors “should be more than your palate can handle.”


Inside the brewery, Dustin Jeffers at work.

A gleaming pinewood bar, fashioned from wood salvaged from the original building, dominates Saltwater’s taproom. Behind the glassed-in bar is the brewery, a collection of stainless steel including brew kettle and mash tun, six 40-gal. fermenters, two 20-gal. fermenters and two 10-bbl tanks. The fermenters are outfitted with glycol jackets to help tame the Florida heat. Grain, too, is stored in a temperature-controlled room. And the water is carbon-filtered to rid it of its heavy mineral taste.

Saltwater Brewery is the latest arrival on expanding craft beer scene in South Florida, where eleven breweries and brewpubs have opened in recent years, from Miami to Tequesta. They include Due South Brewing, in Boynton Beach; Tequesta Brewing in Tequestra, just north of Palm Beach; Funky Buddha in Oakland; The Mack House – Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery in Davie; Wynwood Brewing Co. in Miami and such brew pubs as Titanic in Miami; Brewzzi’s in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach; Tampa Bay Brewing’s Tap House and Big Beer Brewing, both in Coral Springs; and The Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. And more are planned.

“There’s a huge South Florida beer culture,” co-founder Peter Agardy, told me during my visit.  “We saw an opportunity.” He explained that breweries, such as Saltwater are benefiting from the growing number of youthful craft drinkers in the area and a rising tide of first-generation craft beer lovers who have retired to the region.

The plan is to start with familiar beer styles before brewing more unusual brews. Thus, imbibers on opening day will be able chose from a wide range of styles including:

  • South End Session Ale, a low ABV session pale ale with a honeyed nose named for the area of Delray Beach where fishing and surfing are popular.
  • Bonafide Blonde, a golden brew fermented with Belgian yeast. (Not tasted).
  • Big Treble Amber Ale, a nicely balanced red ale.
  • Screaming Reels IPA, whose name pays homage to deep-sea fishermen. It most definitely screams hops.
  • Stinger Double India Pale Ale, named for local jelly fish,
  • SeaCow Milk Stout, named after the native Florida Sea Cow, the Manatee, who reside in the murky brackish waters of Florida.  This light-bodied beer is dark, chocolately and roasty with a touch of sweetness.
  • Flying Scotsmen Scotch Ale (not tasted).
  • Don’t Get Confused Belgian Strong Ale. Golden with a foamy white head, the Belgian yeast character is evident; the high alcohol content is not. Deceptively easy to drink. (Two barrels of the brew are aging in bourbon casks.)

Saltwater’s brews initially will be available only in the brewery’s taproom for on-premise consumption or for takeaway in growlers.  The idea, said Agardy is to grow sales organically and get the community’s support. “We want to be the Delray brewery and take care of the locals.”




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‘Craft Beer London’ author Will Hawkes is Britain’s 2013 Beer Writer of the Year

Will Hawkes

Will Hawkes

In Britain, where beer has been taken far more seriously for far longer than it has on this side of the Atlantic, beer writing has long been an art form and Will Hawkes, a freelance journalist and author, now is considered Britain’s No. 1 practitioner of the art.

Last week, the British Guild of Beer Writers acclaimed Hawkes, author of “Craft Beer London,”  a book and iPhone app devoted to the city’s burgeoning beer scene, as Beer Writer of the Year. The book, published by Vespertine Press, celebrates London’s brewing renaissance.

The Beer Writer of the Year is chosen from one of six category winners in the annual awards, which seek to find the very best of beer writing and journalism in the UK. As well as picking up the overall title Hawkes also won the Molson Coors Award for Writing in National Media.

“I was absolutely delighted to win,” Hawkes, who also has written for various newspapers, including The Independent, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald and a host of others, told me in an email. “When you see the name Michael Jackson emblazoned on the tankard, you feel that it really means something.”

The award is named for Michael Jackson, a writer and author of several influential books on beer, who died in 2007. The Beer Writer of the Year award is the ultimate accolade for anyone communicating about Britain’s national drink. Entries for this year’s competition included press articles, books, radio shows, blogs and apps on a wide range of topics relating to beer.

Hawkes went on to tell me, “Craft Beer London” was created because the city’s beer landscape was changing fast and [app developer] Derek [Lamberton] and I thought there was a need for it. I hope it’s a fair reflection of what’s happening with beer and brewing in London, and a useful guide for those seeking a good glass of beer.”

A companion app “Craft Beer New York” Brooklyn based beer writer Josh Bernstein.

Hawke's book

Hawke’s book

Last year’s Beer writer of the Year winner and chairman of the judges, Pete Brown said, “the judges were unanimous that Will Hawkes’ writing stood out for its breadth of subjects covered and its accessible, compulsively readable delivery. Will has made a significant contribution to spreading the word about beer to new places this year.

Brown added. “Beer writing too is in great shape, with more people communicating about more varied aspects of beer across traditional and new media. The judges were impressed by the high standards achieved by entrants and the range of beer-related topics covered.”

Other winners were:

Brewer of the Year: Derek Prentice, Fuller Smith & Turner

Greene King IPA Travel Bursary Winner: Martyn Cornell

Silver Award: Adrian Tierney-Jones

Shepherd Neame 1698 Award for Beer and Food Writing: Mark Dredge

Thwaites Award for Corporate Communications: British Beer & Pub Association

Brains SA Gold Award for Best Use of Online Media: Richard Taylor 

Silver Award: Adrian Tierney-JonesAdnams Award for Best Writing in Regional Media: Gavin Aitchison

Silver Award: Leigh Linley

Fuller’s ESB Award for Writing for the Beer and Pub Trade: Roger Protz

Silver Award: Jeff Evans

Molson Coors Award for Writing in National Media: Will Hawkes

Silver Award: Sophie Atherton

Entrees are judged for passion, originality, clarity and readability by a minimum of four judges, who change every year. Traditionally, the Beer Writer of the Year from the previous year selects and chairs the judging panel, which includes a mix of brewers, other professionals from the drinks trade, beer writers, food and drink writers, and editors from national and trade publications.

In addition to Brown, judges this year were: Bill Dobson, head brewer at SA Brain; David Wilson, public affairs director at the British Beer & Pub Association; Karen Barnes, editor of Delicious magazine and Craig Woodhouse, political correspondent at The Sun and part of the team which spearheaded the newspaper’s successful campaign to abolish the beer duty escalator.

The British Guild of Beer Writers was established in 1988 to help spread the word about beer and brewing and improve standards of beer writing in general. Today the Guild has more than 150 members.

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