Islamorada Beer Company, Islamorada, FL #Islamoradabeerco

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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-Beer Man

White Birch Brewing – Nyx

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Dark and delicious!

This beer is dark. Like dark as night dark….hence the name. The aroma is super strong, too. Even before my first sip I can smell the malty goodness from a couple feet away. The head was a nice, thick, creamy, chocolate-colored foam that lingered for quite some time.

The first sip wasn’t at all what I expected. There’s no sharp attack from the malt, like you get with some dark beers. This is just smooth all the way through. It’s got a chocolate flavor to go along with the color of the head; and a slight coffee hint that rounds out the aftertaste, which is good since I love coffee, but not as much as I love beer. Part way though my massive tankard, I’m finding that there are some hints of hops beginning to poke though the wall of malt. It’s not a lot, just enough to take the pointed sweetness down a bit.

As I reached the midpoint of this one and the temperature came up a bit, the flavor changed massively. The chocolate started to wain a tad, with coffee coming to the nose, accompanied by a stronger hop scent. The end of this bomber offers another round of coffee-ish malt, with the hops fading into the background….and a yearning for more.

This was one simply awesome brew, and I can’t wait to try more of this unique creation next fall/winter.

Beer Man

White Birch Brewing – Double IPA

Awesome. Despite being a double IPA, it’s really smooth. I was expecting a somewhat harsh brew, but this is well balanced. There’s a big wallop of hops right on the nose, and where a typical heavy IPA hits you with bitterness, this doesn’t. It’s more of a sweet bitter, if that makes sense. There are a bunch of flavors going on – plenty of the obvious sweet citrus from the hops, but also some savory, herbal notes. And it’s right up there on the abv scale, too. Not even half way though the 22oz bottle and I’m feeling pretty good 🙂 Because it’s a big bottle, you don’t have any choice but to nurse it a little, and as it warms up, the beer loses a lot of bitterness, letting the sweet and savory shine, as I’m sure the brewmaster intended.

<>Beer Man

White Birch Brewing Hop Session

White Birch Brewing, Hooksett, NH — Hop Session.

White Birch Brewing Van at the Brewery (Winey Woman made a quick stop there on NYE).

White Birch Brewing Van at the Brewery (Winey Woman made a quick stop there on NYE).

So good. Just such a wonderful hoppyness (yes, that’s a word….now.) The initial aroma is a little weak, brewer’s notes suggest serving at 50-55 deg and I poured it straight from a VERY cold refrigerator, but the citrus nose makes up for it. There isn’t an overpowering citrus profile, just enough to let you know this beer has plenty of hops. The malt is kept in check, and neither it nor the hops outwiegh the other; everything is well balanced.

Enjoying this brew with some tortilla chips is nice – the salt from the chips brings the pine flavors forward, completely changing the overall flavor. As the glass warms up, the aroma is released, much like red wine opens up as it sits in your glass. Overall another awesome brew from a simply wonderful nano-brewery where the norm is “Not NorMal.”

MINI Coopers and their owners are known for being "Not NorMal." Both Winey Woman's MINI (pictured here) and Beer Man's MINI have these stickers on their sunroofs.

MINI Coopers and their owners are known for being “Not NorMal.” Both Winey Woman’s MINI (pictured here) and Beer Man’s MINI have these stickers on their sunroofs.

<>Beer Man