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They’re all beer aficionados on this bus

Brew Bus

Getting aboard The South Florida Brew Bus near the Funky Buddha.

A group of South Floridians discover their region’s breweries and beers with a chartered bus tour.

By Alan J. Wax

It began and ended in Boca Raton, Florida. For more than eight hours, starting on a recent sunny, Saturday afternoon and finishing mid-evening, 24 craft-beer loving South Floridians traipsed through five brewery tasting rooms, traveling from one to another aboard a luxury livery dubbed the South Florida Brew Bus, sampling dozens of beers at each—and more onboard.

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewry

Tour organizer Melissa Nowak at Wynwood Brewery in Miami.

The beer lovers were among the 500-plus members of the Boca Brews Meet Up Group. The tour was organized by the group’s leader, Melissa Nowak, a former paralegal and Maryland expat now living in Boca Raton. A diverse collection of men and women — Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, Boca Brews meets monthly at different venues to quaff their favorite beverage and socialize.

The Brew Bus is affiliated with the Funky Buddha Brewery, which is in Oakland Park, Florida’s budding Culinary Arts District and, which highly regarded for its full-flavored, eclectic beers. Funky Buddha, the region’s largest brewer, started in Boca Raton, where it still operates a lounge and small-scale brewing operation.

I happened to be in Florida when a Boca Brews bus tour was scheduled and decided to join  the fun. Many of the breweries are in out-of-the way locations and the idea of visiting them without having to drive was appealing.

We departed from Miller’s East Boca Ale House in Boca Raton, with Funky Buddha Brewery our first destination. On board, cans of Brew Bus beer, brewed by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa were passed around—along with pretzels and cookies. I found myself with a can of Rolling Dirty, an Irish-style red ale with a big malt backbone and a good dose of hops.

The breweries and their beers

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park

The exterior of the Funky Buddha is deceptive, looking much like a store in a strip mall. Inside, however, there’s a cavernous tasting room and, of course, the brewing operation.  Since brewers can’t serve food under Florida law, a food truck sits outside. There are numerous beers on tap, but its possible to select a few for a custom flight. Servers write each beer’s name in white chalk on your paddle.  Opting for an eclectic selection of brews I was not disappointed.  Vanilla Cream Abdul Jabar Ale showed just enough vanilla to make it interesting—a cream soda kissed by hops. No Crusts, a brown ale with peanut butter and jelly, was interesting with its distinct, but balanced bready, peanut and fruit notes, but too sweet for more than a sampler-sized glass. Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter was tasty, but hardly summery with its strong bitter chocolate and roasted-grain character and undertones of cherries. Floridian Gone Wild is the brewery’s popular wheat beer turned into a tart, but soft refresher.

Mack House Interior

Inside The Mack House, Davie, FL

Back on the bus for a short hop to Mack House in Davie, Florida, home to the Holy Mackerel nano brewery. The tasting room-cum-college-dorm lounge, tucked away in a strip mall on the service road of I-595, offered a handful of interesting beers and some less so. The easy drinking Bowling Alley Blonde seemed to be an entry-level, session brew with its low hop bitterness and a sweet, soft malt character. The golden-hued Downpour IPA offered balanced bready malts and a resiny hop character. The best-selling Psycho Fish, a cloudy orange-colored, orange-infused, intensely flavored Belgian tripel was a delight with its estery Belgian yeast notes, bright orange flavor and notes of bubble gum. Mack in Black, a dark, strong Belgian-style ale was opaque and stoutish with roasty notes. Panic con Pablo is a copper-colored ale infused with a blend of coffee from a local coffee shop called Café Don Pablo Gourmet Coffee; too intensely coffee flavored for my palate.

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Inside the Abbey Brewing, South Beach

Onward to South Beach’s only brew pub, Abbey Brewing, which contract brews its four house-designed offerings at Indian River Brewing Co./Florida Beer Co.  in Melbourne, Florida. Appearing bit rustic for this glitzy neighborhood, it offers more guest beers than those with its own tap handle. On a recommendation, I sampled Immaculate IPA, a copper-hued brew more in the style of an English ESB with notes of malt, fruity esters and more than a hint of hop bitterness.

Inside Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Titanic Brewing, Coral Gables

Stop No. 4: Coral Gables, home to Titanic Brewery and Restaurant, the Miami area’s first brew pub, located opposite the University of Miami Hurricanes’ baseball stadium. Titanic’s beers, not surprisingly are mostly British influenced and nautical themed, a sampler of six generally well-made brews cost just $6. Triple Screw Light Ale, a 4% abv German style ale, was more like a Pilsner than a Kolsch with its grainy, low-hopped character.

Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, an amber brew was deep brown, round, fruity and spicy from the malted rye in the grain bill. White Star India Pale Ale is a copper-hued Anglo-American ale made with Cascade hopes and British ale yeast. Loaded with juicy malt character along with citrus notes it was smooth, creamy brew.Britannic Best Bitter, a British styled ESB was amber hued with a fruity, malty and floral hop character.  Boiler Room Nut Brown Ale, also quite British in style, was a translucent reddish brown, creamy, grainy and a finish that was somewhat short.Shipbuilders Oatmeal Stout, deep brown with an oily character, it seemed thin bodied with an exceptionally dry finish.

Wynwood Brewing in Miami's Wynwood Arts District

Wynwood Brewing, Miami

Our final destination was the Wynwood Brewery, Miami’s first production brewery, located in the Wynwood Arts District, just east of Interstate 95 on a street lined with single-level warehouses tagged with graffiti. Having had a couple of Wynwood’s brews before and been disappointed, I was pleasantly surprised by Wynwood’s Fox, an imperial/double red with a deep russet hue, crisp and flavorful with big malt character and enough hops to suggest and IPA. I was, however, annoyed by the 12-oz. plastic cup and the $8 tariff.

Abbey Brewing Co., 1115 16th St., Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8110.
Funky Buddha Brewery, 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334 (954) 440-0046.

The Mack House (Holy Mackerel Nano Brewery), 9118 W. State Road 84, Davie, FL 33324 (954) 474-5040.

Titanic Brewing Co., 5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, FL 33146 (305) 667-2537.

Wynwood Brewing Co., 565 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 982-8732.

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Sweetwater Brewing wins top honors in US Open Beer Championships

Sweetwater Brewing of Atlanta was named Grand National Champion at the 2012 U.S. Open Beer Championships  in Atlanta.

Sweetwater received the title by winning three gold, three silver, and a bronze meda at the competition, which was sponsored by  Beer Connoisseur Magazine and BeerInfo.comBoston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams, took second place honors, and last year’s winner, Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Ore., took third.

For the first time in the competiton’s three years, a group of home-brewers won a gold medal. The winning group, which took honors in the barley wine category, included Michael Habrat, Chris Bartik, Brett Goldstock, and Suzy Pessutti. all of San Diego

“This competition is significant because it accepts entries from breweries around the world and allows national winning home-brews to compete,”  Dow Scoggins, director of the championships., said in announcement.

The competition included professional breweries and award-winning home-brewers. More than 1,650 beers in 65 categories were judged.

The list of top winners included Ontario, Canada’s Niagara College Teaching Brewery, which finished 6th, winning 2 golds and 2 silvers. The brewery also sells its ales and lagers through local  stores and restaurants. This year, more than 20 international breweries competed. Breweries from Canada, Belgium, Iceland, Germany, Mexico, and England medaled.

Competing beers were judged in 65 different beer style categories. In addition to beer style awards, prizes also were awarded in such categories as organic beer, gluten-free beer, session beer and root beer.

This year’s judges were from England, Canada and the United States.

The top 10 breweries based on the number of beers placing first (3 points), second (2 points) or third (1 point) were:

1. Sweetwater Brewing, Atlanta, Ga.

2. Boston Beer Co.,  Boston, Mass.

3. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.

4. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, Fla.

5. Black Tooth Brewing, Sheridan, Wyo.

6. Niagara College, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

7. Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, Ore.

8. Sprecher Brewing, Glendale, Wisc.

9. Morgan Street Brewing, St. Louis, Mo.

10. Maui Brewing,  Lahaina, Hawaii

Judge’s Awards for the top 10 most creative beer names also were presented.  The winning names were:

1. Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

2. Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout

3. Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale

4. When Helles Freezes Over Munchner Helles

5. Nude Beach Summer Wheat

6. Phlux Capacitor Strong Ale

7. Smokey the Bear Rauch

8. Honey, I can explain Ale

9. Hazed & Infused Dry Hopped Ale

10. Rudolph’s Red Nose Barley Wine

Below you’ll find the complete list of winners (without the spelling errors we found in the press release) and links to each of the winners:

2012 United States Open Medal Winners  

Golden or Blonde ale 

Gold: Metolius River Yellow Sally Blonde Ale, World Brews
Silver: Sweetwater 420, Sweetwater Brewing
Bronze: Golden Feather Extra Pale Ale, Feather Falls Casino Brewing

English Summer Ale
Gold: Twilight Ale, Deschutes Brewery
Silver: First Draft Ale, Niagara College
Silver: Sisters of the Moon, Mother Earth Brewing

English Pale Ale
Gold: Hurricane Reef Pale Ale, Florida Beer Co.
Silver: Schooner Pale Ale, Port Jeff Brewing Co.
Bronze: Hooligan English Pale Ale, Sprecher Brewing

Gold: Inversion IPA – Deschutes Brewery
Silver Full Sail IPA, Full Sail Brewing
Bronze: Naughty Native IPA, Feather Falls Casino Brewing
Bronze: Buzzsaw IPA, Arbor Brewing

Imperial IPA
Gold: Humulo Nimbus, Sound Brewery
Silver:  Hopasaurs Rex, Steelhead Brewing
Bronze: Pugsley’s Signature Series XXXX, Shipyard Brewing
Bronze: Incredible Hop Imperial IPA, Fort Collins Brewery

Gold: Butler’s Bitter, Niagara College
Silver: Arkell Best Bitter, Wellington County Brewing
Bronze: Neustadt Bitter, Neustadt Brewing

Gold: Bitch Creek ESB, Grand Teton Brewing
Silver: Stone Pale Ale, Stone Brewing
Bronze: Crown Jewels ESB, David Motter (homebrewer)

English Mild Ale
Gold: Taps Mild Ale, Tapps Brewing
Silver: Bear Ass Brown, Silverton Brewing
Bronze: Original, Box Car Brewing

English Brown Ale
Gold: Samuel Adams Hazel Brown, Boston Beer Co.
Silver: Tilburg’s Dutch Brown, Konlingshoeven
Bronze: Saddle Bronc Brown, Black Tooth Brewing

Gold: LoneRider DeadEye Jack, LoneRider Brewing
Silver: Exodus Porter, Sweetwater Brewing
Bronze: Black Butte Porter, Deschutes Brewery

Gold: Stumpy Ridge Stout, Black Tooth Brewing
Silver: Happy Ending, Sweetwater Brewing
Bronze: Jefferson Stout, Lazy Magnolia Brewing

Oatmeal Stout
Gold: Buffalo Sweat Stout, Tallgrass Brewing
Silver: Alaskan Stout, Alaskan Brewing Co.
Bronze: Young’s Oatmeal Stout, Wells & Young’s Ltd.

Imperial Stout
Gold: Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone Brewing
Silver: Arcadia Imperial Stout, Arcadia Brewing
Bronze: Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout, Nickel Brook Beers

Old Ale
Gold: Sweetwater 15, Sweetwater Brewing
Silver: Iron Duke, Wellington County Brewing
Bronze: Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Fuller Smith & Turner

Barley Wine
Gold: Nevral Rust – Michael Habrat, Chris Bartik, Brett Goldstock, Suzy Pessutti (homebrewers)
Silver: Church on a Hill, Cigar City Brewing
Bronze: Cerial Killer, Arcadia Brewing

Scottish Ale
Gold: Bomber Mountain Amber, Black Tooth Brewing
Silver:Wee Heavy, Maui Brewing
Bronze:  Scottish Pale Ale, Neustadt Brewing

Strong Scottish Ale
Gold: Loch Down, Arcadia Brewing
Silver: Old Chub Scotch Ale, Oskar Blues
Bronze: Harvest Ale, 16 Mile Brewing

Irish Red Ale
Gold: Samuel Adams Irish Red Ale. Boston Beer Co.
SIilver: Grizzly Red, Big Bear Brewing
Bronze: Irish Red Ale, Four Horsemen Brewing

American Amber / Red
Gold: Epicenter Amber, San Tan Brewing
Silver: Red Banshee, Fort Collins Brewery
Bronze: Kentucky Ale, Alltech Lexington Brewing
Bronze: Metolius Amber Ale, World Brews

American Pale Ale
Gold: Roadside Pale Ale, Mother Road Brewing
Silver: Sweatgrass APA, Grand Teton Brewing
Bronze: Devils Ale, San Tan Brewing

American IPA
Gold: Sweetwater IPA, Sweetwater Brewing
Silver: Bootjack IPA , Icicle Brewing
Bronze: Deviant Dale’s IPA, Oskar Blues Brewing

American Brown Ale
Gold: Fresh Sticky Nogs, Sweetwater Brewing
Silver: Savannah Brown, Coastal Empire Brewing
Bronze: 10W30 Brown Ale, Neustadt Brewing
Bronze: Flashback India Brown Ale, Boulder Beer Co.

German Alt
Gold: Samuel Adams Boston Ale, Boston Beer Co.
Silver: Alt, Kent Shultz (homebrewer)
Bronze: Frankenheim Alt, Privatbrauerei Frankenheim

German Kolsch
Gold: Polar Light, Big Bear Brewing
Silver: Kentucky Light, Alltech Lexington Brewing
Bronze: Khos Kolsch, Icicle Brewing

German Wheat
Gold: Tucher Kristall Weizen, Tucher Brau
Silver: Bayern Dragon’s Breath, Bayern Brewing
Bronze: Bayern Face Plant, Bayern Brewing

German Hefeweizen
Gold: EOS Hefeweizen – Nebraska Brewing
Silver: Ayinger Ur-Weisse, Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying
Bronze: Shell’s Hefeweizen, August Schell Brewing

French / Belgian Saison Ale
Gold: Red Hare Saison, Red Hare Brewing
Silver: Raspberry Saison, Stevens Point Brewing
Bronze:  Golden Cap, New Holland Brewing

French / Belgian Ale
Gold: St. Feuillian Tripple, Brasserie St. Feuillien
Silver: Tripel Karmeliet, Brouwerij Bosteels
Bronze: La Trappe Tripl, Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven

Belgian Abbey Ale
Gold: Belgian Tripel, Sound Brewing
Silver: Belle Star, Lone Rider Brewing
Bronze: Velvet Rooster, Tallgrass Brewing

Belgian Lambic
Gold: The Dissident, Deschutes Brewery
Silver: Samuel Adams American Kriek, Boston Beer Co.
Bronze: Sprecher Kriek Lambic, Sprecher Brewing Co.

Belgian Witbier
Gold: Witty, Chameleon Brewing
Silver: La Perouse White, Maui Brewing
Bronze: Fu Man Brew, Monday Night Brewing

American Light
Gold: Kraftig Light, William K. Busch Brewing
Silver: Schell Light- August Schell Brewing
Bronze: Evans Light Lager, Evans Brewing Co.

American Lager / Pilsener
Gold: Bruce County Lager, Neustadt Brewing
Silver: Cable Car Lager,World Brews
Bronze: Tiger Crystal, Tiger Brewing

American Premium Lager
Gold: Session Premium Lager, Full Sail Brewing
Silver: Special Lager, Stevens Point Brewing
Bronze: Evans Original Lager, Evans Brewing

American Amber/California Common
Gold: Southern Lager, FullSteam Brewing
Silver: Firebrick, August Schell Brewing
Bronze: Winter Skål, Capital Brewery

Bohemian Pilsener
Gold: Golden Pilsner, Morgan Street
Silver: Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Boston Beer Co.
Bronze: Red Hook Pilsner, Red Hook Brewing

Geman Lager / Pilsener
Gold: Cameron’s Lager,  Cameron’s Brewing Co.
Silver: Soaring Eagle Pilsner – Feathers Falls Casino Brewing
Bronze: Bayern Pilsner, Bayern Brewing

Munchner Helles
Gold: Helenboch Beer, Niagara College
Silver: When Helles Freezes Over. Morgan Street Brewing
Bronze: Full Sail LTD 3, Full Sail Brewing

Munchner Dunkel / Dark
Gold: -Session Black Permium Dark Lager, Full Sail Brewing
Silver: Capital Dark, Capital Breweing
Bronze: Winter Brew, Sprecher Brewing

Marzen / Oktoberfest
Gold: Dirty Face Amber, Icicle Brewing
Silver:  Samuel Adams Octoberfest, Boston Beer Company
Bronze:  Point Octoberfest, Stevens Point Brewing

Gold: Black Bavarian, Sprecher Brewing
Silver: B3K, Wynkoop Brewing
Bronze: Land Ho!, Heavy Seas Brewing
BronzeL Ligero, Cigar City Brewing

Gold: Bayern Maibock, Bayern Brewing
Silver: Capital Mai Bock, Capital Brewery
Bronze: Bucking Bock, Rahr & Sons Brewing

Dopple / Strong Bock
Gold: Sprecher Dopple Bock, Sprecher Brewing
Silver: Regulator,  Rahr & Sons Brewing
Bronze:  Deviator, Cameron’s Brewing

American Cream Ale
Gold: Cameron’s Cream Ale, Cameron’s Brewing
Silver: El Toro Cream Ale, Fullsteam Brewing
Bronze: Hop Cream , Capital Brewery

American Wheat
Gold: Honey Wheat Lager, Morgan Street brewing
Silver:  Indian Summer, Lazy Magnolia Brewing
Bronze: White Water Wheat, Grand Canyon Brewing

American Specialty Wheat
Gold: Tallgrass Halcyon, Tallgrass Brewing
Silver: Haystack Wheat, Left Hand Brewing
Bronze:  Circus Boy, Magic Hat Brewing

Fruit / Vegetable beer
Gold: Samuel Smith’s Apricot Ale, Samuel Smith’s Brewing
Silver:  Sobre Humano Palena’ole – Maui Brewing/Jolly Pumpkin
Bronze: Mandarin Gold, Big Island Brewhaus
Bronze: Spring IPA with Kumquats, Fullsteam Brewing

Herb and Spice beer
Gold: Yule 2011, La Cervecería Calavera
Silver: Coconut Porter, Maui Brewing
Bronze: Fire Side Chat, 21st Amendment Brewing
Bronze: White Mountain Porter,  Big Island Brewhaus

Chocolate / Cocoa Beer
Gold: Honahpu’s Impertial Stout, Cigar City Brewing
Silver: Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock, Boston Beer Co.
Bronze: Banana Split Chocolate Stout, Thomas Creek Brewery

Coffee Beer
Gold: Big Shot Espresso Stout, Twisted Pine Brewing
Silver: Espresso Porter, South Street Brewing
Bronze: Drip Dry Coffee Stout, Maui Brewing

Baltic Porter
Gold: Kalevipoeg Baltic Porter, Cigar City Brewing
Silver: Black Eagle Porter,  Black Tooth Brewing
Bronze: Big George, Icicle Brewing

Gold: Rich and Dan’s Rye IPA, Harpoon Brewing
Silver: Rye Pale Ale – South Street Brewing
Bronze: Emerald Rye ,August Shell Brewing

Wood / Barrel aged beer
Gold: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Alltech Lexington Brewing
Silver: Innis & Gunn Original, Innis & Gunn
Bronze: Barrel Aged Porter, Port Jeff Brewing

Wood / Barrel aged strong beer
Gold: Utopias 2011, Boston Beer Co.
Silver: Bertwell Barrel Aged Barley Wine, Niagara College
Bronze: 2010 Old Guardian Barley Wine, Stone Brewing

Smoked / Rauch beer
Gold: Lava Smoked Imperial Stout, Olvisholt Brugghus
Silver: Samuel Adams Cinder Block ,Boston Beer Co.
BronzeL Smokey the Bear, Big Bear Brewing

Specialty / Anything Goes
Gold:  Honey, I Can Explain,South Street Brewing
Silver:  Golden Sabbath – Big Island Brewing
Bronze: Allies Win the War, 21st Amendment Brewing
BronzeL Leviathan Red Squared, Harpoon Brewing

Out of Bounds Pale Ale
Gold: Silverback Pale Ale, Wynkoop Brewing
Silver: Headstock IPA, Nickel Brook Beers
BronzeL Indian Paintbrush Ale, Black Tooth Brewing

Best of Show Organic
Gold: Foret Organic, Brasserie Dupont
Silver: Baba, Uinta Brewing
Bronze: OB1, Snake River Brewing
Bronze: Steemer Summer, Orlando Brewing

Gluten Free
Gold: Brunehaut Amber, Brunehaut Brewing
Silver: Brunehaut Blond, Brunehaut Brewing
Bronze: Gluten Free,  Nickel Brook Beers

Gold: Orange Avenue Wit, Coronado Brewing
Silver: Chocolate Orange IPA,Thomas Creek Brewing
Bronze: Anniversay Ale, Terrapin Beer Co.

Session Beer
Gold: Bitter American, 21st Amendment Brewing
Silver: Easy Rider,Terrapin Beer Co.
Bronze: Samuel Adams Belgian Session Ale, Boston Beer Co.

American Black Ale
Gold: Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Stone Brewing
Silver: Back in Black, 21st Amendment
Bronze: Hop in the Dark, Deschutes Brewery
Bronze: Dubhe, Uinta Brewing

Baltic Porter
Gold: Kalevipoeg Porter, Cigar City Brewing
Silver:  Black Eagle Porter, Black Tooth Brewing
Bronze: Big George, Icicle Brewing

Wood Barrel Aged Sour
Gold: Window Pane Blackberry, Mother Earth Brewing
Silver: Framboozled, Arbor Brewing
Bronze:  Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Co.

Wood Barrel Imperial Stout
Gold: Love Craft Beer, Cervecería Calavera
Silver: Dragon’s Milk – New Holland Brewing
Bronze: Black Betty Imperial Stout – Nebraska Brewing
Bronze: Silent Night Imperial Stout – Mother Earth Brewing

Root Beer

Gold: Saranac Root Beer, F.X. Matt Brewing

Silver: Mount Angel Root Beer, Mt. Angel Brewing

Bronze: Permium Root Beer, Stevens Point Brewing

Bronze Steelhead Root beer,  Steelhead Brewing


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