I talk with my brother, Andrew, several times a week over the phone. Our conversations go something like this – spend a solid 5+ minutes exchanging jokes that nobody other than us would find remotely amusing; talk about quitting our jobs and opening an awesome beachside dive bar; and then swap notes on the new beers we’ve tried recently.
Of those three topics, there’s actually some value in the third one.
My brother lives in Sarasota, Florida, and the craft beer scene in that area would be enough to make any Boston beer lover smile. Every time I visit, there’s a newly opened taproom with a food truck parked outside. Customers line up outside breweries for the latest limited releases. Bars team up with brewers and host tap takeovers.
And of course, whenever my brother visits me, I’m sure to stock my fridge with the latest offerings from breweries like Trillium, Wormtown, and so forth.
However, geography being what it is, our beer discussions are mostly been limited to over-the-phone reviews and texted pictures.
In a moment of inspiration, Andrew and I decided to start periodically sending each other samples of our favorite local microbrews. I’ll be documenting the exchange here on BBH, which will give me a chance to showcase a Boston-area brewer while getting acquainted with a Florida beer.
The Home Team
For my inaugural shipment to Florida, I chose Happy Sol, a blood orange hefeweizen made by Somerville Brewing Company – aka Slumbrew.
Slumbrew has been making beer since 2011. Between mainstays like Flagraiser IPA, seasonal offerings like the excellent Attic & Eaves, and special releases, the Somerville-based brewery has produced nearly 30 unique brews. I haven’t yet made it to their brewery and taproom, but their Beer Garden at Assembly Row is delightful.
Happy Sol may sound like a summer beer, but you’re in for a gut punch if you’re expecting something light and airy. Brewed with Massachusetts wildflower honey, orange peel, and coriander, and brewed with blood orange juice, this 5.5 ABV beer is a bold hefeweizen with spices and prominent notes of banana. It pours golden-hued and cloudy, and the aroma is floral and citrusy. There’s a distinct sourness at the end, along with a lemony tartness.
The only flavor that isn’t as prominent as I’d expect is blood orange. There are definitely citrus notes in there, but given Slumbrew’s proclamation that Happy Sol is “fermented with the juice from over 1,000 blood oranges,” I’m surprised the flavor isn’t more noticeable. On the other hand, I’ve eaten maybe two blood oranges in my life, so maybe my palate just isn’t properly attuned. Regardless, Happy Sol is an unusual and enjoyable beer, and worthy of shipping south.
Not long after I sent off the Happy Sol, a package landed on my doorstep with a six-pack from Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing. One of the most popular breweries in the Sunshine State, Cigar City opened its doors in 2009 and now has upwards of 20 beers to its name. I wish they sold it up here just so I’d have more occasions to say Cigahhhhhh City.
Cigar City is best known for its flagship beer, Jai Alai Pale Ale, but Andrew sent along one of their most recent “irregular” releases – Guayabera Citra Pale Ale. “Guayabera” might sound like some exotic berry, but it’s actually a style of shirt known for its four oversized pockets. I guess the idea is that between the four pockets and your two hands, you can stroll around with an entire six-pack.
Guayabera is a crisp brew with mild fruity notes, like wild berries, grapefruit, and tangerine, and a bready finish. But what truly distinguishes it is the use of Citra hops, which contribute tangy notes of citrus and tropical fruit.
I’ve quickly become enamored of this beer. Bright gold and hazy, it’s an easy-drinking, summertime brew that’s been perfect for the humid days we’ve been having in the Boston area over the past few weeks. It goes down like a session beer, but with a 5.5 ABV, it could wind up being a short session.
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