As Will Smith once sang :
“Party in the city when the heat is on, all night on the beach till the break of dawn – Welcome to Miami!”
Maybe if he was into his ales rather than his rapping he could have let everyone know just how superb the beer scene actually is in the USA’s southernmost region.
The craft beer landscape has never been more prominent in the US than at the current time, we’ve all heard of the Californian beer renaissance, Colorado’s burgeoning brewing start-ups and New York’s never ending craft tap rooms and cool beer lounges.
So.. this is an Ale Trail from Miami, over the bridges spanning the Florida keys strung along the southern tip of the USA all the way down to the laid back, palm fringed Key West.
So, Southern Florida? It’s all Mickey Mouse and Alligators isn’t it? Well if the first bar visited by the name of ‘The Democratic Republic of Beer’ was anything to go by, it was going to be a highway 1 road trip of epic beery proportions, buckle up and get thirsty folks.
The DRB, located on 14th street in downtown Miami just across the water from Miami Beach boasts over 450 beers on sale, supping some of this massive line up whilst chatting to the clued-up staff will have your journey off to a very knowledgeable start. Beer line up included Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA, New Zealand’s Moa Brewing Blanc Evolution, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye and a full list of Rogue Ales wares.
Heading across the water back into Miami Beach, Zeke’s Roadhouse bang in the middle of tourist central, lights up a sign pronouncing “250 beers of the world all at $4”, as well as the hundreds of bottles they have 24 of them on draft. Alongside the ubiquitous Bud Light you’ll see Left Hand Brewing Stout and Southern Tier IPA’s to name but a few. Everything served in plastic pint cups and weirdly, showing your ID here is a necessity no matter what age you are. Grab your ales, sit at one of the beer mat strewn tables on the sidewalk and watch the weird and whacky of South Beach flaunt past.
Heading down Ocean Drive half a mile past the breathtaking array of art deco buildings to the quieter neighbourhood at the southern end of Miami Beach and you will come across 2 fantastic watering holes: Abraxas Lounge and The Room.
‘The Room’ sits quietly on 1st street between Collins and Washington, darkly lit oozing an uber cool laid back atmosphere, walk in and you’re warmly welcomed into a friendly beer lovers bar that just likes the lights turned down a bit. A chalk board bottled beer menu behind the bar greets punters along with a craft draft selection that would make any beerophile’s eyes water – lets mention Brooklyn’s Mary Maple Porter, Ommegang Hennepin Saison a (US Belgian brewer) and Stone Self-Righteous Black IPA all killer 10 out of 10’s
Just a couple of blocks away round the corner you’ll find Abraxas Lounge, being welcomed in with a yellow sign saying “No Crap on Tap” feels like a good start. Like most of the craft ale bars Abraxas has a telephone book thick beer menu to help lengthen your decision making, but just to go one up they also have separate beer menu for speciality beers. Rare limited editions and one offs from the likes of Left Hand, Brooklyn Brewery, Summit, Dogfish Head and Florida’s very own Cigar City Brewing litter the pages.
I noticed a beer glass stuck on the handle of a draft pump showed that Derbyshire’s very own Thornbridge Jaipur had sold out the night previous, no matter where you are, some things never change!
What you will need after all these beery treats is a bite to eat. How about a burger?
Not just any old fast food restaurant but a place that satisfies your hunger and of course has a massive beer list! Miami Beach has not one, but two such destinations: Beer & Burger and Five Napkin both have beer lists which could certainly lead to a long night – how about a selection of 10 wheat beers, 11 IPA’s and 6 dark lagers to start with!
A couple of note included Magic Hat Brewing ‘Encore” from their IPA on tour limited range, a ‘Wheat IPA’ lipsmacking hops with thirst quenching fruit and Hoppin’ Frog BORIS a full on punchy stout full of meaty smokiness, both excellent with flame cooked burgers.
Welcome to Miami – great venues and fantastic ales, after the bustle of the beach and sweat of the city it’s time to kick back along the keys.
Next lets head south on US1, we’ll stop off in Key Largo for a couple of liveners then cruise with the roof down to Key West, just 90 miles north of Cuba.
We’re sure to find out if Key West still has its hedonistic edge and check out the bars to see if it’s become a hophead’s dream destination.