January is one of my favorite times of the year for a few reasons. The holiday madness is over, the Christmas decorations are down (hopefully), and the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is back once again. The Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is held at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL. Roger Dean is the Spring Training home of both the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins and the festival is held on the outskirts of the stadium itself. This year there were 85 breweries, cideries, and meaderies on hand to help tickle your taste buds. I arrived around 11:30 and quickly headed over to the cash line because in typical fashion I procrastinated just long enough and missed the chance to buy a ticket online. The festival, which is in its 11th year, releases 1,500 tickets online and 1,200 tickets in person at the gate. As luck would have it, I got a call after waiting for a grueling 5 minutes in line, which was just long enough to have my ID checked and bracelet received. The call was from my buddies who had located a ticket while they waited in the pre-purchase line. For those planning to attend in the future, buy your ticket online. It saves you the hassle of watching everyone else visit tent after tent while you’re still waiting to pay your $35.00 entry fee. After joining my friends in the pre-purchase line and exchanging cash for a ticket, I was handed a cup from my buddy and told to dig into the bottles that were already popped. The first beer, of four, that I sampled in our mini beer share was the 2016 version of Wicked Weed Brewing’s ‘Angel of Darkness’. I always forget how damn good that beer is! The next offering was ‘JDawg Porter’ brewed with pecan and vanilla from Fat Point Brewing in Punta Gorda, FL. It wasn’t a bad beer, but it was overshadowed by the other three we sampled. Next was an Imperial Stout with coffee that was brewed in a collaboration between Trillium and Evil Twin Brewing called ‘Dusk Trill Dawn’. If you can get your hands on this beer, you should! It was fantastic! Funky Buddha Breweries ‘Last Buffalo in the Park’ was the final beer poured just a few minutes before the gates were opened. That was my first opportunity to try the Buffalo and it did not disappoint.
I always tell my wife I’m a champion in the art of multi-tasking and I proved that by finishing my beer while getting my ticket scanned AND explaining to the volunteer at the gate that we were indeed allowed to bring backpacks into the festival. I guess I was pretty convincing because that’s all it took for her to let us through. I mean, where am I supposed to put all of the festival schwag that I collect throughout the day without a bag? Once through the ticketing portion, we gathered in the stadium concourse like cattle ready to begin our afternoon grazing session. A salivating mass waiting in anticipation of the brews that lay ahead.
A few minutes pass and the countdown to 1:00 pm begins. The gates are opened and it’s Black Friday at the neighborhood box store all over again with people heading in different directions to gain their first taste of the beautiful nectar that we so affectionately call craft beer. My first stop was Proof Brewing. I’m a big fan of pretty much everything I have tried from them, plus the only time they are available in South Florida is at a festival. They brought ‘Tropical Uprising Ipa’, a Belgian Strong Ale called ‘Peach Tea Litany of Angels’, and their ‘Coffee Creatures in the Dark’ Milk Stout. All three were certainly worth the wait in line, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t bring one of their Berliner Weisse down this time since it’s one of the samples I look forward to every year.
Next, I hit Copperpoint Brewing for their B. Rabbit Espresso Cream Stout and the Walking Tree Brewery for their ‘Limey Sailor’ Berliner Weisse and ‘Duke Sniders’ Imperial Stout. At that point, one of my buddies got my attention and said I needed to head over to the Finback Brewery tent because they were pouring an amazing black Gose. Finback Brewery is out of Queens, NY and has become friends with Civil Society Brewing so they were not only in town for the festival, but also to brew a chocolate IPA with the Civil boys. Back to the Gose. ‘The Sun is Too Bright Black Gose’ aged in red wine barrels was absolutely mind-blowing. The red wine wasn’t overpowering and everything seemed to meld together so very well. They were also pouring their Double IPA ‘MK Ultra’ which was delicious. I noticed a few cold cans behind the table and asked for a pour. I was delighted to receive a taste of ‘Red Shift’, which is a sour brewed with cranberries and the Japanese fruit Yuzu.
Tampa Bay Brewing had their golden ale named ‘Quat’, which is brewed with Kumquat and is very citrus forward. I stopped at Coppertail Brewing to try their ‘Guava Pastelitos’ Berliner Weisse and was once again blown away by it. Brewzzi was next on the list. Matt Manthe, who will be opening Odd Breed Wild Ales early this year, was representing Brewzzi with a barrel aged sour Porter called ‘Adjunct Fever’. It was brewed with cherry vanilla and cacao nibs. I was already eager for his brewery to open, but this beer just added to that excitement. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for his new brewery.
I tried a Serrano Pepper Amber Ale called ‘Son of Sea Biscuit’ from Barley Mow Brewing, which was very well done. Just enough heat to keep you interested, but not enough to set your face on fire. I also tried their ‘Maven Chocolate Milk Stout’, which was a nice calming beer to follow the peppers. Devour Brewing brought a Mango Tea IPA and their Blizzard of Darkness Milk Stout aged on toasted coconut and Madagascar vanilla beans amongst others. I had tried both beers before and rated them a tick higher this time than I had the first time. Chip is definitely stepping up his game.
The Native Brewing Company brought a Scotch Ale aged in rye whiskey barrels called ‘Beam Me Up Scotchy’ that was marvelous. The Scotch Ale is a favorite style of mine, so I tend to be a tad picky and this one did not disappoint. The Brooklyn Brewery was only pouring from bottles, but I did stop to try their newest addition, the ‘Bel Air Sour’, which is a nice crisp dry-hopped sour. I happened upon the 26 Degree Brewing tent at the just right moment because they were having a timed release of their ‘Bourbon Barrel aged Scotch Ness Monster’. Talk about the beer gods being on my side! It was what Scotch Ales and bourbon barrel aging were meant to be. I really need to make it down to Pompano Beach to review these guys.
I stopped into the Civil Society Brewing tent for a bit to try their mouth-watering Double IPA, ‘Seventh Wonder’, and hang out for a bit. The craft beer community is filled with some really fantastic people and the folks at Civil run at the top of that list for me. After a bit, I headed to the Orchid Island Brewery tent where head brewer and co-owners Alden and Valerie Bing were pouring ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi Saison’ and a Berliner Weisse called ‘Beachside’. For the Berliner, you had the option to add one of two house-made syrups using either locally farmed Honeybell oranges or locally farmed key limes. All three were absolutely amazing! I shot the breeze with Alden for a while until we were joined by Civil Society’s Evan Miller for a bit of craft beer shenanigans. It was the perfect way to end yet another successful Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival. Once the festival started to shut down at 5:00 pm I visited with a few friends before walking over to Civil Society to close out the day.
If you haven’t been to this festival yet, I would highly suggest planning for it next year. It makes for a really entertaining day between all the beers and the continuous live music flowing through the crowd. Just make sure to have a plan for getting home after this drinking session as you probably won’t want to drive. If you’re coming from out-of-town there is a hotel within walking distance. If possible, try to get your hands on tickets to the exclusive event the night before, which is called the Field of Beers. Tickets are $100 apiece and there are only 300 available. Fifteen teams of brewers and Palm Beach area chefs are paired up for a beer and food pairing unlike any other. It was named the USA Today Readers’ Choice 4th best craft beer festival in the nation in 2016. Plus in all seriousness, there isn’t a better part of the country to be in during this time of year. It’s hard to beat a sunny 70-degree day in late January while sipping on some of the finest craft brews.
I’m already looking forward to next year.