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Happy finds – and disappointments – mark a S. Florida breweries adventure


A recent visit to South Florida provided an opportunity for two days of boozy adventures, visiting some old haunts and a couple of newer breweries. I was delighted by several beers and, surprisingly, disappointed by others, especially the offerings at one of the region’s leading beer makers.

My itinerary:


Among the delights I found were the handful of brews sampled at Bangin’ Banjo Brewery, which is located in an industrial park not far from the highly popular Festival Flea Market in Pompano Beach. Bangin’ Banjo is a 3-barrel brewing operation opened in mid-2014 by a pair of homebrewing friends. Nothing fancy here. The tasting room, rustic in tones of green and varnished pine, puts the focus on the beer. And they were quite satisfactory. High on my list were Swiftness Potion Belgian Triple, a deep-golden brew with an intense Belgian yeast character, banana notes and a dry finish; OJ Session IPA, an eminently drinkable crisp, light golden brew with a citrus nose with notes of sweet malt and piney hops; Annie’s Raspberry Cream Ale, a light, cloudy brew redolent of the red berries; Bangarang English Brown Ale, a copper-hued, somewhat grainy brew with notes of chocolate and nuts; and Overcast Shadow, a chewy, winey, deep-brown Russian imperial stout with a mocha head and notes of chocolate and licorice.



26th Degree Brewing Co., launched in September 2015 by a group of self-taught homebrewing buddies, occupies a former supermarket on a busy main strip in Pompano Beach that’s close to the Atlantic Boulevard bridge that spans the Intracoastal Waterway. The brewery’s name is derived from the city’s latitude. It’s brewing system, behind the large taproom, turns out 30 barrels at a time. It was easy to feel lost in the sprawling 4,500-square-foot, industrial-chic taproom on an early Sunday afternoon. The beers, served way-too-cold, were largely uninspiring. Erick the Great, an opaque black Russian imperial stout made with Belgian yeast, however, stood out with it a rich chocolate velvety character, estery Belgian notes and a dry finish.



After several visits here in recent months, I’ve learned it’s best to stick to the tried-and-true year-round brews and avoid the overly sweet, flavored beers no matter how tempting it may be to give some of these brews with outlandish flavor additions that include strawberry extract, vanilla, chocolate nibs and more (Last Snow is an exception). The tasting room and outdoor drinking areas always seem to be filled. During my most recent visit, a pug dog-rescue group was holding a fundraiser and a bunch of people masquerading as Star Wars characters abounded. Last Snow, unfortunately was a week away from being released when I visited.  One standout among the specials was the Veruca Snozzberry Gose, a Berliner Weise brewed with kettle salt and coriander with a name that references the spoiled bratty girl in “Willy Wonka.” A refreshing brew, it’s a bright orange yellow and its taste suggests orange juice with salt.  Avoid Hit “Em with Hein, a creamy sweet brew with a fake strawberry flavor reminiscent of the taffy I ate as a kid; What is That Velvet, a flavor-muddled copper brew and Neapolitan Porter, a sweet brown brew with vanilla notes rising above the other muddled flavors; and, I’m So Excited, I’m So Scared, which tasted of sweet roasted grain and little else.


My third visit to this out-of-the-way, but pub-style tasting room, was less inspiring than earlier visits, though Jess, who worked the behind the bar, was a helpful guide. Nuance, a prototypical Saison, was a top quaff, and Monk Be Mine, a cherry chocolate quad brewed for Valentine’s Day, wasn’t far behind with a full-bodied velvety character and the suggestion of chocolate-covered cherries.

Other offerings I tried were less successful, including 1801, a brew redolent of coffee and little more, and Start Sour, a fruity brew with only the barest suggestion of tartness.


I first visited here on the eve of its opening three years ago. Head brewers have come—and gone, but the basic beers remain the same.  Since then, they’ve turned out more than 300 different brews, many twists on the core roster. Alas, an old favorite, Don’t Get Confused, a Belgian tripel was not available. On this visit, I particularly enjoyed Mayday, a deep-brown, malty, drinkable American porter. Monk’s Vacation was an interesting quaff reminiscent of a sweet spice cake, albeit a liquid one, with dominant Belgian yeast and clove flavors.



We ran into Jess, who served us at Barrel of Monks a day earlier, behind the bar here. She knows her way around beers. Named for an indie rock song, the brewery was opened in mid-2015 by Chip Breighner, who worked at a home beer supply store. He brews on a 1-barrel system so that qualifies Devour as a nano. Our evening visit was interrupted by a power outage, forcing us to drink at one of the tables set up in the parking lot that serves the industrial strip that is the brewery’s home. I enjoyed the SoBo Wit, cloudy yellow, lively and a definite orange character, but was unmoved by most of the others brews sampled.



My second visit since its opening in the spring of 2016. Owner Matt Cox, winner of GABF gold medal in 2002 when he worked at Big Bear Brewing in Coral Springs, brews on a 20-barrel DME systems, viewable through the wall of the comfy brick-walled taproom. Das Pilsner, a bright golden, crisp brew with notes of fresh hay, was an enjoyable quaff. Also quite tasty, Blood Orange Wit with its reddish hue, citric-cardamom nose and the notes of sweet fruit and spices that played off against one another.

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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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