How to build a Florida brewpub

While living in Germany has been an amazing beery adventure, my love of beer dates back much further. Though not enamored with the suds in high school, university days sowed the seeds of not only finding a taste for “the stuff,” but also for exploring the unknown even within the relatively newly liked beverage. It was the heyday of “imported” beer and those from England and Germany led the way in widening my newbie taste-buds. A sophomore semester abroad and pre-trip to Europe cemented my new found connoisseur status but it wasn’t until quite a few years later when traveling around the US for six months that I discovered that beer in my own country could be an enlightening experience, too. Well over a hundred brewpubs later and I had discovered “craft beer” before the term came into existence, or at least had garnered any kind of steam. Anchor Steam was still the rage and IPA was only starting to rear its weary head.

a few old photos from early brewpub visits in South Florida

Fast forward a few decades and after discovering quite a few old time craft beers here in Germany, I still enjoy returning to the US to see what’s on offer. I’ve been lucky to do a few more extended beery trips around the US but now I’m mostly resigned to checking out the local brews in two of my old hometown areas near Philadelphia but more so Fort Lauderdale, in south Florida. Now, Florida, once a beer wasteland, has come a long way in the last few years so no snickers from the peanut gallery. That said, there are still some ups and downs. While brewpubs like the Funky Buddha in Fort Lauderdale generally make quite serviceable beers, I’ve not been enamored with some of the more experimental offerings and some brewpubs like the Banging Banjo in Pompano seemed to totally miss the mark. Places like Due South in Boynton Beach were good fun if a bit hit and miss, however, Saltwater Brewing in Delray was a real pleasant surprise. One thing I can say is even if all the beer wasn’t amazing, the facilities were uniformly well-run with very good staff that ensured a good time for all who ventured their way. Drinking beer, after all, isn’t all about the perfect pint.

LauderAle is a colorful brewpub “in” Fort Lauderdale

My most recent foray was planned to be a three-pronged stab at some of the newer brewpubs closer to my old hometown of Fort Lauderdale but as with even great plans, you sometimes just don’t get to do what you set out to. So, Invasive Species Brewing in Fort Lauderdale and Odd Breed Wild Ales in Pompano will have to wait for a future trip. We did get to LauderAle, not all that far from Fort Lauderdale Airport and even closer to the Port Everglades Power Plant. Though certainly well off the tourist path, my local friends assured me it was a place to make the effort to get to. Since they were driving, I had no complaints.

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air hanger atmosphere & thirty house-brewed beers on tap

The air hanger atmosphere is one that many brewpubs in South Florida seem to emulate and I must say that while at first a bit daunting, it does seem to fit the warm climate and general easy going nature of such places. Sparingly but nicely decorated, it had a nautical but modern feel and with 27 of their potential 30 taps flowing, you weren’t lacking choices of what to drink. This is where the American standard practice of offering free small tasters really comes in handy. No one wants to shell out $7 for a pint of beer they don’t like. I started out tasting a pair of the lighter ales before ordering the Not Bitter which I ultimately still found a bit lacking. Their Ordinarily Bitter was much better but too fizzy for the style. Out of curiosity, I then tried two of their Germanic offerings and unsurprisingly found both the Slam Dussel (an Alt beer) and Märzen underwhelming. I haven’t had many great beers in the US in this realm and with a vast experience in small village brewpubs in Bavaria under my belt, I generally steer clear of them. Again, I can’t emphasize enough how nice being able to get a taster is. With very few dark beers on offer, I moved right into the IPAs and again, there wasn’t a lack of choice with seven of them!

food truck serving tacos & outdoor seating

We settled into the outdoor seating and enjoyed the ability to bring your own food, my friends having thought to bring some Bánh mì, tasty Vietnamese sandwiches. There was a food truck offering tacos, too, for those less prepared. With so many IPAs tasted, forgive me for forgetting all the names. I do remember that some were a bit unbalanced like Hopmess and others thinner on flavor like Cafe IPA. Ultimately, the best IPA and overall beer for not only me but my wife and friends was the Immigration IPA. It was well-balanced and dangerously drinkable at 7.4%. We perhaps pushed the envelope too far by ordering their C Porter, a coconut-infused dark brew that had won a gold medal at the GABF in 2017. While not sweet, the coconut seemed to get in the way of the beer for both my wife and me. Thankfully, we’d only ordered one to share.

mariachi band on taco Tuesday & enjoying friends makes LauderAle a winner

We decided to have one last Immigration IPA and fittingly, a mariachi band started their set and we realized it was, in fact, Taco Tuesday so got a taco from the food truck for good measure. They joked about being deported and we enjoyed the carefree atmosphere that is the hallmark of American brewpubs. It’s something I find harder to find in Germany. While the beer doesn’t always hit the mark, it does often enough and that combined with friendly, quick service and a little mariachi and tacos, what’s not to like?

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