Coconuts And Key Limes

So last night I decided to experiment a little bit with the coconuts and key limes that I brought back from our Florida trip. I brought back quite a few of each with the hopes of making a beer or two capturing the essence of the Florida Keys.

It’s very common to see dark beers flavored with coconut. Typically it’s porters, stouts, and browns that people brew. With summer hopefully just around the corner I want to begin focusing on lighter beers. Beers that you want to drink on a hot, sunny day are where this next volley of brews are going. That’s not entirely true though because I still have one dark beer I want to make this winter. It’s brew date was postponed due to some unforeseen circumstances before our vacation and hopefully this weekend it will find its way into my conical.

Based on some early sampling I’ve gotten very good feedback about the Debbie Does Amarillo Dirty Blonde Ale. I also feel that it will make a very good base for beers that may not have a ton of flavor punch. A coconut beer should be a very good experiment for this due to the subdued flavor that real, natural coconut gives.

Until recently I had always thought of coconut flavor as being very powerful and in your face, like a Mounds bar. In using coconut products around the house like coconut milk and coconut oil I’ve found that it is the exact opposite. It seems to be a flavor that is very muted, but could potentially be overdone in large quantities.

The key limes are another unknown to me. While down in the Keys I had a slice of key lime pie and loved it. It was the first time that I had something made with real key lime and found the flavor to be different than that of key lime in processed foods. It doesn’t seem to have the same citrus flavor that a regular lime has and has a little more bitter finish on it. Heck, until I got a text message from my mom on our trip home saying that the neighbor asked if he could have some key limes off their tree I had thought I brought back a large bag of small lemons. Apparently key limes, along with regular limes, turn yellow on the outside when they ripen. They are just sold green in the store for longevity and so that the customer knows it’s a lime. This was news to me.

After work I went down to the bar and poured three glasses of the DDADBA. I figured two would be for experimenting and the third would be my control.

20150225_172705

 

I also got out some measuring devices, my wife’s Vitamix, a couple coconuts, a few key limes, and my zester. I was ready to play mad beer scientist.

20150225_172742

IMG_20150225_173211

The first thing I did was drain the coconut juice into the Vitamix. This was easy because sitting in our dry house the shells had already began to crack and they were slightly easier to peel. After that I carved out about a quarter of the coconut meat and blended it together. It had the flavor that you would typically find in your average coconut milk. I figured I was on the right track.

Next I zested an entire key lime. This is where I became a little unsure of the plan. When I zested the citrus for my Twisted Kisser last year the lemon and lime zest was a little bit sweet and sour just like their juices are. The zest from the key lime was primarily bitter. I will need to do more research on why that is, but it may well just be a characteristic of the key lime. Anyway, I went ahead and added that to the blender and found it really didn’t affect the taste. The bitterness might have made the coconut milk a little more dry on your palate, but that was it. I decided that adding a little bit of the key lime’s juice couldn’t hurt and it didn’t. It seemed to give me a little bit of the sour citrus bite I was looking for.

20150225_175720

Now came the fun part of trying to figure out an empirical way of mixing up this concoction. I measured out half an ounce of my coconut milk and added it to a 10 ounce glass of my DDADBA. I figured that would give me good round numbers to work with if I had to scale this up at a later date. I got caught up in what I was doing and didn’t realize that when I brewed I would probably add coconut meat to the boil or in fermentation, not into the final product. This experiment was just meant to see how coconut played with the flavor of the DDADBA. From that point I gave up on measurements and just tried stuff.

IMG_20150225_182916

As you can probably tell from that picture the beer looks disgusting. It wasn’t though. It actually tasted pretty good even though it was a little chunky. It confirmed that the DDADBA will be a good candidate for future flavor additions.

A final note to anyone looking to mess around with adding various things to carbonated beer. Make sure you are working somewhere that cleans up easy. Apparently adding coconut milk to carbonated beer makes the beer give up all of it’s carbonation instantly. Picture the little volcanoes you made as a kid with baking soda and vinegar. It required a little more clean up than I had anticipated.

Islamorada Beer Company

During our recent vacation to Florida one of the breweries we had the pleasure of visiting was Islamorada Beer Company located at mile marker 82.5 in Islamorada, Florida.

Since the Keys were not the land of craft breweries that I had hoped they would be Islamorada Beer Company was a great find.

Getting to the brewery, whether you are coming from the north or south, involves driving over a few long bridges across beautiful greenish blue water separating the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean.

20150214_124508

As you near catching sight of the brewery gives you a glimpse of just how well everything about this place fits where it’s located.

20150214_133411

The bright yellow and blue facade make it pop out from it’s surroundings and scream, “It’s a beautiful day for a beer”. Stepping inside feels more like stepping out onto the beach. The whole side of the tap room is covered in beach sand. I kinda though maybe I should be building a sand castle along with drinking my beer.

10423868_1544997739068976_8233435302138761077_n

We found our way to an empty high top table and were quickly greeted by the very friendly underwater hockey playing bartender. That’s right, underwater hockey. I guess that’s what happens when you live in the Keys and still want to play hockey. It sounded like something very interesting to watch, but sadly we didn’t make it to the pool where they play during our trip. Next time…

In looking at the beer list we found that they had 4 of their beers on tap and a couple guest beers as well. Knowing that I wanted a pint glass to add to my glassware collection at home we ordered their “Drink Local Special”. The Drink Local Special is a flight, a beer, and a pint glass for $20. Not a bad deal since I had planed on getting a flight and a glass anyway.

The flight quickly arrived at our table.

IMG_20150214_125848

From left to right the beers were the Sandbar Sunday, Islamorada Ale, Channel Marker IPA, and No Tan Lines. While I don’t consider myself to be a beer rating expert I do have to say that their entire selection was very good. Each of the beers seemed to be very light and crisp. Just the thing you would expect in an area that seems to be in perpetual summer, drenched in bright sun, and under amazing blue skies. My personal favorite was what I believe is their most popular beer, the Sandbar Sunday.

This is also the place where we got our first experience with strange Florida brewing regulations. They didn’t offer 64 ounce growlers. Instead, they sold 32 ounce flip top bottles.

Every brewery that I go to I try to get two things. I try to get a logo pint glass and a growler to add to my collection. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out. For example I’m not really willing to spend $50 on an insulated stainless steel growler just to sit on a shelf and often breweries don’t have logo pint glasses. Luckily IBC was not the place where I was going to strike out. Not only did I get my pint glass and awesome cobalt blue growler, but I also got a tin sign as well. Since we were on vacation, and didn’t have to deal with the overflowing beer fridge I have at home, I got the growler filled with some of their Sandbar Sunday.

What you see here is what happened a couple hours after leaving the brewery. It was good beer, and it didn’t last long.

IMG_20150214_202319

All in all Islamorada Beer Company is one of the more unique breweries that I have been to in my travels. It wasn’t a huge place. They didn’t serve food. They don’t have a huge tap list, but that’s all ok. Sometimes it’s not about have a mind boggling selection or fancy food. Sometimes it’s just about having great beer and giving patrons the experience that fits the location. In those aspects IBC is spot on and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop there again next time we visit. I suggest everyone take a few minutes out of their travels in the Keys, stop in, relax, and have a cold one.

 

 

I’m Back

So as you might have noticed…or maybe no one noticed…I’ve been gone for awhile.

I had to escape the cold Michigan weather for a few days. After work on February 12th we packed up the car and grabbed the brewing assistants(our dogs) and hit the road. Our destination was Marathon, Florida. Marathon is mid way down the Keys and a couple hours south of Miami.

The land of sun and warm weather was just a mere 26 hours ahead of us. However apparently we were driving so fast down there that we drug a bunch of cold weather from Michigan with us and it was more like the land of wind and cool weather.

The entire time we were there the weather was unusually cool and if that wasn’t bad enough it was always windy. What would have been a pleasant mid 60’s afternoon became a blustery “feels like” 50 degree day. In fact, when we were down there Key West, just like areas near home, broke a low temperature record. That being said, we really can’t complain because it was still 70 degrees or more warmer down there than here and the couple days we spent in Key West were beautiful.

As you might guess beer is always an important part of any trip I take. To my amazement the Keys are really not a great place for a craft beer drinker. During our trip there were only 3 craft breweries open, with another opening just as we were leaving. You might be wondering why there would be so few breweries in an area so dense with tourism. Apparently Florida has some really strict craft brewing laws. I need to look a little more into that subject, but in talking with a couple of the brewers it’s pretty rough for them. I plan on dedicating a few of my upcoming posts to the couple breweries that we did visit.

Another challenge was trying to find Florida craft beers at the stores. I’ve grown very accustomed to having anything and everything I could ever want at any gas station, party store, beer store, or grocery store I go into. This really was not the case down there. Walgreens and Publix ended up being our go to places to find the small selection of Florida beer that we did. As with the breweries, I’ll also be talking a little bit about the few beers we tried during the trip because a couple were amazing.

The trip also yielded some good ingredients and ideas for new brews that I plan on trying in the very near future. The biggest finds were coconuts and key limes. Hopefully I can come up with a good use for the trunk load that I brought back. In fact, that’s what I think I’ll go work on for a little bit.

Caught A Unicorn Yesterday

Yesterday I finally tracked down and caught my unicorn.

IMG_20150208_094111

As you might remember from one of my first posts one of my most sought after beers has been the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

After seeing a few Facebook posts where people had gotten some of the 120 Minute IPA I stoped at my usual beer store Friday after work. Sadly, they hadn’t gotten their allotment yet.

Saturday I stoped at a place I had never been to before. I looked all over the store and didn’t see it, but I figured I would ask. Half expecting to be laughed at, I asked the clerk if they had gotten any or would be getting any. To my surprise he said yes, but there was a catch.  Supposedly his distributor made him take a large amount of the Festina Peche to be able to get some of the 120 Minute. He was passing this problem on down the river. To buy a single bottle of the 120 you had to buy a 4 pack of the peach Berliner Weiss. I didn’t care, I wanted my unicorn.

So after spending an obscene amount of money to aquire two 12 ounce bottles of beer I was on my way home.

IMG_20150208_094511

There they are, chilling in good company, proof that dreams do come true.