By Passport Miami Editors
There is a new beverage craze in South Florida. No it’s not coconut water or the latest celebrity endorsed vodka””or even a new energy drink for that matter. The latest and greatest cool thing in South Florida is bee, specially craft beer. That is beer brewed locally in small production by what is known as a “micro-brewery”. A micro-brewery is an independent brewery which is produces a limited production of beer annually.
Craft beer has become so popular in Miami that it now has its own “scene”. Craft beer has become cool. As more people discover craft beer they are starting to appreciate it just like wine lovers love their wine. People are discovering that beer can be complex, sophisticated, and delicious too. There are restaurants and bars that are known to serve it. Liquor and grocery stores that are known to sell it. And schools that teach classes in it. Yes classes about tasting beer. Is this a great country or what?
A South Florida “expert” on craft beer, Larry Goeser, also known as “Good Beer Larry,” is a local Cicerone Certified beer expert (yes the US has a test to become a beer drinking expert) and an actual professor of beerat the Miami Dade Community College. In a recent interview by Passport Miami, Larry was kind to answer some questions about which South Florida restaurants have the best selection of craft beer, how to pair beer with food, and how to learn more about drinking craft beer.
What is the Cicerone Certification? The program tries to ensure that beer consumers get the best beer and enjoy it under optimal serving conditions. Sellers and servers need to be knowledgeable in some key areas: beer storage; sales and service; beer styles and culture; tastes and flavors; brewing ingredients and processes; and pairing beer and food.
Miami’s craft beer scene seems to have recently exploded. What do you think have been the main contributing factors to this? The first thing to get us started was the bottle law changing in the early 2000’s. Beer was only allowed in 8, 12, 16 and 31 oz. bottles. When the law changed many beers started to come here. For the last few years Miami’s craft beer scene has been growing. Craft beer is being sold in more places and there are beer events everywhere in South Florida. There are several distributors that handle craft beer only so they know how to place it and sell it. Before the big 3 (Anheuser Busch, Miller and Coors) dominated so the small guys didn’t get the attention. Eventually better product won out.
What restaurants and bars have the best craft beer selection? The Local 150 has a great selection and it always varies. This happens in the craft area as beer runs out and they have to put something different in the spot. Titanic brews their own beer (the only place in town ““ still!) and has a good menu as well. Yardhouse is a small chain with over 100 beers on tap; excellent food too. Many places have added craft beer to the selection. The Brickell area has several newer beer places. Cervezas, in South Miami has 200 bottles and 10 or so excellent rotating drafts. The Abby Brewing Company, in Miami Beach, brews their own beer and they are excellent. The beer is brewed in Melbourne, Florida at Florida Brewing using Abby’s recipes. It’s a small place but has some great beer.
How have local brewers been experimenting with local flavors? Titanic brews traditional English ales so there isn’t much local content. The Schnebly Winery in the Redlands has now started brewing. They brew various local fruits into the four beers that now are available at grocery stores and where craft beer is sold. The brewing with local products is more advanced in other parts of the country. Blueberries are used in many areas. Using local hops and barley is a growing trend in craft brewing but neither grows in Miami so we probably won’t see that happen here.
Many people still prefer light and less flavorful beer such as Budweiser or Miller. What beer would you recommend to them? The industrial pilsner/lagers are very light to it is good to get them to try lighter beer first. Just trying a craft brewed pilsner or lager is an improvement as they usually only contain the four ingredients necessary for brewing. Malted barley (or wheat) water, hops and yeast. The big traditional brewers have added adjuncts which have the effect of making the beer lighter in color and taste. (They are cheaper too.) A Brooklyn Lager has much more taste than a Bud. Then introduce them to ales. Again, try the lighter ales first. Traditional English or American pale ale is a good start. Once people realize that beer can actually taste better, you can move them on to many other interesting and flavorful beers.
What is your advice when choosing a beer to pair with a meal? A good rule of thumb is to pair “like with like”. This means if the food is light in intensity the beer should be too. If you have a light filet of fish a dark heavy beer would overwhelm and cover the fish. For stronger, more intense foods you need stronger beer. If you were having a big tasting cheese like blue cheese it would overwhelm a light pilsner. A hoppy big beer like an IPA would stand up to the cheese taste and complement it. If both are sweet they will be less sweet together. Match beer to the strongest flavor in the dish you are pairing with. There are many guidelines but it is great fun to attend beer dinners and other events and see what you like. Over time you will discover many new taste combinations; some of them perfect and some not as much so. Many restaurants are now listing beers that go with certain dishes on their menus. Wheat beers combine well with many foods; particularly salads. Almost any salad as long as the dressing isn’t too sweet. It works with almost anything you want to put on the salad; cheese, ham, anchovies and more.
For someone wishing to stock their refrigerator with great beer what store should they visit? The best selection is at Total Wine. All the craft beer is sold warm so if you need it cold right away local stores have it cold. Whole Foods (Coral Gables) has a good selection and is in the process of making the beer department even larger. As with most stores if there is someone that is interested in the beer it really makes a difference. Sunset Corners at 87th Ave and Sunset has a good selection. Stop and Shop on Ponce near UM has a great selection some hot and some cold. Most local liquor stores have some craft beers, and some Publix stores have a great selection. It just depends on the store.
Where would you send a beginner interested in home brewing or just learning more about craft beer. My class “Beer Education with Larry Goeser” is running this fall at Miami Culinary Institute in Downtown Miami. Classes are Friday nights from 6 to 8 pm. For beginning brewers try Brew Box down by the Falls. They offer a free brewing class on Saturdays. More serious brewers can take classes at FIU’s school of hospitality. By the end of the classes everyone brews a beer.
What are some upcoming events in the craft beer world? Locally the next big beer festival is the Grovetober Fest in Coconut Grove in October. There are many smaller events and tastings. Whole Foods is having free classes each month. My monthly “˜Beer Blast’ has local craft beer events and happenings.
Lastly what is your all-time favorite beer? My favorite style is India Pale Ale (IPA) there are several I really enjoy. For the regular IPA I like Sisters of the Moon IPA by Mother Earth Brewing in Kingston, NC. For the double IPA I like Idiot IPA from Coronado Brewing in Coronado, California. Neither of these are here in Miami yet. So if I have to choose locally available beer 2x IPA from Southern Tier Brewing is great in bottles, One of the big advantages of the craft beer movement coming of age is that I rarely drink the same beer two weeks in a row. There is great selection and I can buy so many different beers depending on what I feel like having or matching up with what I am eating.
If you want to find out more about Larry’s craft beer class at Miami Dade Community College please visit their website:
To find out about local beer happenings visit: