Local beer TASTES LIKE
When a panel of 11 connoisseurs at the Best Florida Beer Championships picked the state's best commercial beers from more than 80 brews, they left a lot of gold around Tampa Bay. The runner-up overall champ was small brewer Saint Somewhere of Tarpon Springs. (How it tastes, below.)
Among local brewers and pubs to win gold medals in various categories:
• Dunedin Brewery for Apricot Wheat, Beach Town Brown Ale, Bohemian Rhapsody.
• St. Somewhere for Saison Athene.
• Sarasota Brewing Company for Midnight Pass Porter.
• Tampa Bay Brewing Co. for Jack the Quaffer, One Night Stand, True Blonde, Moose Killer Barleywine.
• Yuengling of Tampa for Black & Tan.
Our home brewers showed well, too. Danny Williams of Dunedin Brewers had the best in show beer across the state and Tom Wheatleyof Tampa Bay BEERS had best in show mead.
Compiled from Times staff BEER OF THE WEEK
Saint Somewhere, Saison Athene, Tarpon Springs
This big bottle is full of fun, flavor and stories, part Belgian and part Tarpon Springs. Home brewer Bob Sylvester started the tiny brewery two years ago when his pals said his beers were good enough to go pro.
Proof is in this Champagne-style bottle bursting with what the Belgians call a saison ale, a rustic farmhouse ale made every winter between the barn and grandmother's spice rack and then aged for summer drinking.
It's big stuff (7.5 percent alcohol) with a strong foamy head, hoppy with more spice than sugar. The gingerbread in the aroma grows on the palate to fill the mouth with cinnamon, black pepper and clove. Cloudy pale gold signifies this is handcrafted artisan brew, unfiltered and aged. Even Sylvester calls it wild and funky. Judges at the Best Florida Beer Championship called it a big medal winner and gave it second place in best of show.
A homegrown Belgian beer this good deserves respect. It's worth buying another to lay down for a year or so, and when it comes time to open, get out a big wine glass and a bubbly stopper (and keep a pair of pliers if the cork is in solid). For a touch more sweetness and alcohol, look for Saint Somewhere's other ale, Lectio Divina, brewed in big-hearted abbey style.
Availability: $10 for a 750ml bottle at beer specialty stores, pubs and well-stocked liquor stores.
Times staff writer