To celebrate the birthday of its owner, Richard Gonzmart, Tampa’s Ulele restaurant tapped its most ambitious brew yet (with a name to match): Richard’s Rockin’ Birthday Starfruit Lambic.
Unlike traditional Belgian lambics — sour ales spontaneously fermented in oak — Ulele’s Starfruit Lambic started as a steel-fermented golden lager before resting in third-use Knob Creek bourbon barrels for a year with a brettanomyces yeast strain isolated from Belgian lambic.
Ulele is known for using native Floridian ingredients on its menu, and this beer is no exception. Brewmaster Tim Shackton capitalized on the abundance of local fresh starfruit, adding a bushel to the barrel for the beer’s final three months of aging. "Starfruit has a great, delicate acidity," said Shackton. "I don’t like it sour, sour, sour, I just like to put a kiss on it."
Belgian lambic is slightly sour due to bacterial fermentation that produces lactic acid. In the case of Shackton’s Starfruit Lambic, the citric and malic acids of the starfruit are more of a suggestion, acting as a balance to the oak tannins and faint vanilla notes derived from the third-use bourbon barrels.
The brettanomyces lambicus yeast strain adds a low-level funk that transforms the clean lager base wonderfully, resulting in a layered brew that’s made for food pairing.
"We can do any kind of beer, but the thing that makes me most happy is the moment when a beer sits at the table and it just works with everything," Shackton said. "It’s site-brewed and site-served, and it’s made specifically for the menu."
At $14 for a 20oz. Pour, Richard’s Rockin’ Birthday Starfruit Lambic is meant to be enjoyed throughout the course of a meal. This has an added benefit of allowing the beer to warm somewhat during the course of drinking it, revealing a rich combination of exotic flavors, as well as more pronounced starfruit notes. Like all of Ulele’s special releases, this is a very limited, draft-only offering. Swing by the restaurant (1810 N Highland Ave, Tampa ) to try it yourself, but don’t wait too long, as it’s expected to last another week or two at most.
— Justin Grant
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