I came across this brewery on a total fluke. WineyWoman and I were in Miami Beach, FL, for a few days, visiting with friends from Germany and Holland (I know, that makes no sense, but just roll with it)…We wandered into a small hole-in-the-wall liquor store on a side street between Ocean Ave and Collins Ave, just to see what they had to offer. They had tons of generic beers, an equal amount of wine, and then a cold case of singles and 6-packs to go. In this case, we discovered a lone row of Islamorada Beer Company (IBC) Sandbar Sunday. The name rung a bell, as the following day our plan was to go to the Keys. One quick Google search (ain’t smartphones grand?) and we knew exactly where the brewery was located.
The following morning we picked up our rental car, and headed out on the 75-minute drive south from Miami Beach. If you’ve never been to the Keys, you need to go. Once you get past some of the more built up areas, especially in Key Largo, things only get more beautiful as you go south.
IBC is located in a small single-story building on the side of Rt1, and you’d likely miss it except that it’s the yellowest thing in the world. Seriously, Big Bird isn’t this yellow. Anyway – we arrived about ten minutes before they opened, so we took a short walk two blocks to the Atlantic Ocean and drool over the beautiful day we had.
Upon returning to the brewery, the door was unlocked and we were welcomed in by a wonderful young lady named Crystal. Right away the conversation was easy going and the beers were being poured. That day we were offered seven tasters, including a bunch of their pilot batches.
Every single brew we tried was off the charts awesome. From the basic Sandbar Sunday, a great brew for typical southern Florida weather (read: hot and sticky), to their Pump Key pumpkin beer. Yeah, who’d expect to find a pumpkin beer in Florida – surprised me, for sure! The one beer that stuck out in my mind – so much that after we spent the afternoon at a beach resort Crystal suggested we check out, we went back and bought a half growler to bring home – was No Wake Zone, a pilot batch ale brewed with coconut and Key Lime. I seriously thought about this beer all afternoon as we sat on the beautiful white sand, soaking up the sunshine.
I knew it was a risk trying to get a growler home on an airplane, even in checked baggage. I was concerned that the pressure changes due to being 32,000 feet off the ground might cause the glass to break; or the TSA agents might fancy a drink while searching luggage…Luckily everything went fine – my bag wasn’t searched, the glass was strong, and the beer (over two weeks “aged” here in New Hampshire) was just as good, maybe even better, than when it was fresh.
No Wake Zone, a coconut and Key Lime ale, is incredible. I was a little unsure of how coconut would work in a beer, but I’m happy to report that IBC knows what they’re doing! The nose isn’t overly powerful, just a basic ale aroma – it smells like a beer. I can’t sense any coconut on the nose to let me know what I’m about to get into. Only a very slight hint of lime says “hey, get ready for some fun!” And what fun it is! That first sip releases all sorts of flavors. The coconut comes rushing to the front, filling my whole palate with a smoothness I’d attribute to having a beer on nitro. That superb silky mouthfeel, with the added benefit of coconut to round it out. After that, Key Lime shows up to the party – fashionably late, but still welcomed. It adds a slightly sweet tang to the finish, just so the coconut doesn’t get to hog the whole palate. Deeper into my first glass and I’m starting to pick up on a slight coconut aroma being released. It’s not strong but does allow the flavor to expand slightly – the way red wine breathes as it sits in a decanter or large glass. I’m going to be a good boy and save the rest of my 32oz bottle for tomorrow, as much as it pains me. I know I’ll enjoy the rest of it if I wait a day.