Why don’t more breweries specialize in lagers? The answer: They’re time-consuming. The extended aging that lagers must go through results in a crisp drinkability rarely found in ales, at the cost of tying up brewery space and equipment for weeks on end.
Despite this significant downside, Tim Shackton of Ulele Spring Brewery has made lagers his specialty, producing a diverse range of light, majorly-thirst quenching brews served year-round on tap at the Tampa Heights restaurant and brewery.
A former seasonal release-turned-core offering is Hydration Station, a low-calorie (just over 90 calories per 12 ounces), Mexican-style lager that’s remarkably substantial, given an alcohol content barely cracking 3 percent by volume and a flavor profile specifically designed to appeal to the runners frequently seen jogging up and down the neighboring Tampa Riverwalk.
This German-by-way-of-Mexico lager is brewed without adjunct grains and is unfiltered and unpasteurized — as traditional as they come. No bold hop additions, flavoring additives or alcoholic heft to hide behind: just a clean, straightforward brew.
"This is the purest expression of a beer that I could make," Shackton says.
An addition of biscuit and melanoidin malts gives Hydration Station a rounded sweetness that offers the impression of a much more full-bodied beer. This is a light beer by definition, but it bears little resemblance to other light/low-carb beers in flavor. It’ll pair nicely just about anything on the menu, but it’s nuanced and rich enough to easily stand on its own.
You’ll find Hydration Station on tap at both the restaurant and at the Ulele Bar at Tampa International Airport (Airside C).
Visit Tampa Heights’ Ulele on Sunday for its four-year anniversary, featuring the special release of a Knob Creek barrel-aged version of the Buckhorn Stout. A signed-and-numbered 500ml growler of the stout will be delivered to the first 400 tables served.
— Justin Grant
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