We were recently invited to sample some beers being brewed at Brew F.I.U., a part of the hospitality program at Florida International University, focused on advancing beer brewing techniques and education in the craft of brewing beer. We sat down with Matt Weintraub and Moh Saade to talk about experiments they've been performing with hops (like what readily available hops can be combined to create the smells and flavors associated with some harder to find and more expensive varietals) and yeast and I've got to tell you - I definitely learned a thing or two. What's more, the two have been tasked with designing the beers for a future brewery here in Miami. That's all I know, I swear.
We started the night by sampling their single-hopped Nelson Sauvin Pale Ales. Here's the deal - they fermented one half of the batch on an english yeast and the other on an American yeast. The results were amazing; the same exact beers completely changed by the different yeasts. I know it's supposed to be that way but it's really amazing to see it play out side by side on otherwise identical beers. Each carried its own smells and tastes and highlighted different aspects of the other ingredients in the beer. Really cool.
The English yeast pale ale, first served in a wine glass, smelled of white grape and a hint of stone fruit and showed minerally sauvignon blanc-like characteristics and slight graham cracker in the taste, with a nice dry finish. On the other end of things, the American yeast (again, in a wine glass) brought forth a more dank, earthy smell (still got crushed grapes and stone fruit) and let the hops be a little more aggressive and fruity on the taste. Both nice, but both completely different. Still, in both, the Nelson showed itself through the grape and white wine characteristics on the nose and palate.
The real mind blowing experience came when we served the same beers in an IPA glass. Now, we got more of the hop-forward Pale Ale characteristics we're used to in our american pale ales. Yes, we've all heard that the glassware matters, but how many of us actually believed that it would COMPLETELY change the flavor of the beer we were about to drink? Try this at home with a pale ale of your choice and I'm sure you'll see what we're talking about.
After this glassware experiment, I almost started doubting my prior beer reviews. How much different would I have seen the same beer in an IPA glass versus a pint glass and which would I have liked better? Here we were trying the same beer in different glassware and finding that we enjoyed different things more in each beer depending on the glass. For example, although we enjoyed the English yeast more in a wine glass, we enjoyed the American yeast more when poured into an IPA glass. While I still recommend the use of proper glassware, this little test gave me new view of what "proper glassware" means. Sit and ponder that one.
The fun didn't end at the pale ale though. We also sampled an IPA that featured Cascade, Bravo, Sterling, and Horizon hops. On the nose, ripe pineapple dominated with a hint of citrus following behind. The taste was crisp with a light biscuity background and citrus hops that seem to stick to your tongue in a good way. Not like a peel the enamel off your teeth way, but instead a more nuanced approach that allows you to taste the hops all while enjoying a nice bitterness. Still some work to do - but a great base to build on.
One of the stars of the show was the Black IPA - hopped primarily with Chinook hops for the piney and resinous character prevalent in a west coast IPA. Put your nose in the glass and prepare to be transferred to a pine forest. Initially, the taste had a nice clean hop bite, followed by a light taste of molasses and lots of roastiness. What was really nice about this particular beer was that as it warmed, the piney-ness continued to become more prevalent on the palate. Plus, look at the color on that thing - beautifully jet black with a light brown foamy head. This is a beer that Matt and Moh think will likely survive these test rounds without much modification and make its way to the future brewery.
We rounded out the night with a really nice Belgian dubbel brewed with dark sugar with a beautiful banana, raisin and cinnamon bread nose and a hefe. Both really nice. While all the recipes were only test recipes, they showed tons of promise. There was restraint where it needed to be and an attention to detail and desire to stay true to style while making sure they put their own stamp on it. After all, Matt and Moh plan on taking their recipes with them when they become the leads in a brewery set to open just North of Miami International Airport next year.
These early recipes caught my attention not only because some could already be competitive in the market but more so because the goal of the duo is to create balanced and delicate food beers inspired by some of their favorite English styles and American breweries like Firestone Walker and Founders who are focused on balance and quality - not gimmicks. In a sea of breweries trying to grab attention by being the most outrageous at all costs, it's good to know that the focus here is on consistent quality and crafting modern takes on traditional styles - making sure to pay homage to those who came before. It's more likely than not that most of the beers we tasted won't see the tasting room or bottles but they served as a great indication of what Matt and Moh plan to brew. If the test batches serve as an indication of what's to come, Miami can expect another quality brewery to open its doors to the public. Hopefully sooner rather than later.