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Peg's Cantina gets funky with fruited beer

Expect the tables to be full at Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport for the second annual Berliner Bash on Saturday.
Expect the tables to be full at Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport for the second annual Berliner Bash on Saturday.
Published Apr. 16, 2013

GULFPORT

It all started with Rainbow Jelly Donut. Not the name of a love child born in a VW bus at a String Cheese Incident concert, it's a beer.

Its full name is Ich Bin Ein Rainbow Jelly Donut, a 2012 limited release Peg's Cantina "Gulfport Original on Draft" fruited beer made in a Berliner Weisse style by mad scientist brewer Doug Dozark.

It scored a 93 ("exceptional") on Beer Advocate and a 99 on Rate Beer. One reviewer's description: "Pale cloudy pink color. Aroma of armpits and raspberry jam. Taste is sour funky raspberries." That's a positive assessment, even with the armpits.

But it's more than RJD's funkiness that's notable. Dozark, who worked for four years at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa before launching his own Cycle Brewing, started a Berliner Weisse craze among Florida brewers. The state's first Berliner Bash took place last May, when a couple hundred beer drinkers assembled in Gulfport to taste these low-alcohol, cloudy, sour wheat beers first made in the 16th century. The second annual Bash will be Saturday at Peg's, the street blocked off and brewers from all over Florida coming to pour their own interpretations.

A lot has happened since the 16th century.

Jonathan Wakefield, who will soon launch his own eponymous brewery in Miami, was so smitten by RJD that in 2012 he concocted his own Pilot Series Passionfruit Dragonfruit Berliner, which he brewed at Cigar City Brewing (scoring a 98 on Beer Advocate). Which in turn inspired other Florida brewers to dabble with fruited Berliner Weisse styles.

"It really took off with Rainbow Jelly," says Wakefield. "It was a big curve ball thrown at beer drinkers. Drinkers were used to drinking huge beers, barrel-aged this and barrel-aged that. It took off because it was something completely different. It definitely struck a chord, and it's growing. There's not a lot of stuff out there that you can drink at four and a half percent alcohol that is refreshing and complex."

The first Berliner Bash showcased beers by five Florida brewers. This year that number has risen to 11, with efforts from Dozark and Wakefield, Cigar City and Angry Chair in Tampa, 7venth Sun Brewing in Dunedin, Rapp Brewing in Seminole, Funky Buddha in Boca Raton, Green Room Brewing and Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, Proof Brewing in Tallahassee and Gravity Brew Lab in Miami.

According to Joe Tucker, executive director of Rate Beer, "Florida brewers have really put something together. There's been an ongoing stink about it at Rate Beer — it's not a traditional Berliner Weisse because it's brewed with the fruit, the fruit's not added at the end. That's not traditional, and there are purists who would never put the sweet fruit in early. (The style) has gained a lot of attention."

Tucker says that despite the controversy, this emerging style has been dubbed Florida Weisse, a quenching, sweet-tart beer often fruited with seasonal Florida fruits, even tropicals.

So what are beer drinkers likely to taste on April 20?

Wakefield wasn't saying for sure what he is bringing to this year's bash, but he tantalized with some of his recent efforts: Fruit Salad Berliner, Watermelon Berliner, Strawberry Rhubarb Berliner. Now add in a little funky armpit and you have the latest Florida craze.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

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