SRQ Magazine | March 2017
Once the brewing starts, it just doesn’t stop. Brewheads and beer-vangelists rejoiced at the craft beer explosion that hit the Gulf Coast in 2014 with breweries like Motorworks, Big Top and JDubs finally offering local flavors for local sippers (and chuggers), but critical mass has yet to be achieved. The mushroom cloud may have dissipated a bit, but these four new breweries prove there’s still plenty of activity in the blast zone.
Over at Calusa Brewing, Navy buds-turned-brewheads Geordie Rauch and Victor Falck are making beer the way they want to make it—and that means lots of sours and barrel-aging. “After 10 years being told what to do in the military—as much as I loved the experience—I very much didn’t want to work for someone,” says Rauch. “I wanted to work for myself and make my own hours and rules.” Finding a kindred spirit in Falck, the San Diego-based pair enlisted the help of a brewmaster from California named Jason Thompson to head east and eventually start their own operation right here in Sarasota off Clark Road. With a focus on barrel-aging but still in the early stages, the goal in the first year is to create a robust system by which enough barrels are produced and at the proper intervals for year-long sustainability. One of the first—a sour currently in the barrels—isn’t ready yet, but Rauch reports it’s “coming along nicely.” In the meantime, Calusa fans can’t get enough of the Calusa Citronious, an IPA made from 100 percent citrus hops, and Dissonance, a breakfast brown ale made with cold-brewed coffee from Black Gold Coffee Roasters in Venice and a dash of cinnamon.
Naughty Monk Brewery
With a soft opening in early November of 2016, Naughty Monk Brewery counts among the newest arrivals to the craft brew scene. Beginning as home brewers, co-owners Joe and Diana Eibler graduated from the stovetop to a full-blown brewery in record time. “It just sort of snowballed,” says Diana. She and her husband would experiment with different flavors and ingredients—just having fun—and as word got around more and more friends suggested making the jump to full-scale production. Taking the plunge, it was still a couple years before they would find a suitable space for their needs in a building off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard in Bradenton. “We really wanted to be in Lakewood Ranch,” says Diana, who saw other breweries opening closer to downtown Sarasota and Bradenton. “It’s been a long time coming for people who live out that way.” Bringing a focus on Belgian beers, Naughty Monk uses grains, hops and yeasts particular to the region, inspired by the Trappists—the acclaimed old monastic brewhouses that still dot the globe. Popular brews so far include the Du Mi Belgian Dubbel, a strong draught accented with orange zest, and the Enkel Belgian Single, a lighter selection Diana refers to as a “gateway beer” for those new to the Belgian style.
With the arrival of his latest eatery, Cevichela, Chef Darwin Santa Maria brings another brewhouse to the scene with sister-project Chela. Retaining Darwin’s dedication to fusing Peruvian flavors with local palates, the brews at Chela were created after an exploratory journey through Peru with former president of the Brewer’s Association, Charlia Papazian, looking for fresh ideas, ingredients and suppliers. Collaborating with Papazian, Darwin crafted new signature brews such as the Jahrapita Imperial Porter, a name that pays homage to both its Jamaican and Peruvian roots. A porter brewed with cacao chocolate and aji charapita peppers from Peru, it is also Darwin’s first barrel-aged beer, finishing with five months in Jamaican rum barrels. For something a bit lighter, the Boa, an orange wheat ale made with local oranges and orange rinds, and the Peruvian Indian Pale Ale made with Peruvian purple corn have been met with great response. Still operating largely out of Cevichela, Darwin is in no rush to expand, instead focusing on getting the brews right first. “We don’t feel that pressure to get out in the market right now,” he says. “We want to create that local following as people get to know the brand. I’m just excited that we’re in the stage of playing around with beers.”
3 Keys Brewing and Eatery
At 3 Keys, beer is a family affair—co-owners Cathy and Jeff Douglas and their son Scott want to keep it that way. The goal isn’t to become a big-time brewery competing for shelf-space in Publix with the likes of Big Top, but rather an intimate brewpub for regulars and friendly visitors where craft beer enthusiasts can try a few new brews each week and get their fill at the dinner table. “We built this brewpub as a place where we want to hang out,” says Jeff. While other breweries focused on big production facilities to pump out beer, hosted with a small taproom and a few food trucks stopping by a couple times a week, says Jeff: “We wanted to do the opposite.” Taking a trip across the USA to visit breweries and alehouses as far afield as Alaska, the family Douglas took notes along the way, collecting tips and tricks as to what would be the perfect brewpub for them. Focusing on German-style beers, they plan to introduce two to three new beers a week with a rotating selection of boutique brews for even the craftiest of enthusiasts to enjoy. Instant hits include the West Coast Hoppy Wheat, tinged with bitterness like an IPA, and the session IPA Billy Fred, named for Jeff’s grandfather. A World War II vet with eight Bronze Stars, the real Billy Fred was introduced to craft beer in the last five years of his life, leading him to proclaim that he’d been drinking the “wrong beer” for the last 60 years.