Sniffing Out Some of Florida’s IPAs for Summer

photo by Kevin Gibson
photo by Kevin Gibson

It’s a standing agreement that whenever my girlfriend hits the road for a vacation in which I’m not along for the ride, I am in charge of taking care of her cats. I do check-ins, feed and water them, and I also have the dreaded task of cleaning the litter boxes.

But in return, she always brings me local beer from whatever destination she visits. This spring, it was Florida to visit her cousins. Before she left, I said, “Just bring me some IPAs – and get some Jai Alai, if possible.”

So, I spent four days scooping poop, hoping I would get at least one IPA for each day of scooping. When she returned, she brought a nice surprise – not three, not four, but eight different IPAs from the Sunshine State. Here's a review:

Cigar City Brewing, Jai Alai IPA: The first time I tried one of these beers brewed in Carver City, Fla., I declared it my favorite IPA, and it is still ranked very high on my personal list. Named after “the merry game,” Jai Alai spills into the glass a lovely burnt orange color, with plenty of foamy, off-white head that disperses a big citrusy floral aroma. It is beyond inviting, and the creamy, caramel malt offers balance to the dry-ish, bitter finish that is never too piney. This is a great companion to spicy seafood or, well, nothing at all. (7.5 percent ABV, 70 IBU.)

Big Storm Brewing Arcus IPA: Hailing from Clearwater, Big Storm’s Arcus IPA (named for a storm front cloud formation) exhibits an unusual aroma in its big bubbly head, probably due to the wildflower honey added. Most IPAs bring citrus notes, but this one is sweeter than most in the aroma. It is a crisp-drinking beer on the lighter side of the IPA family, with a spicy bite that leaves a nice tingle in the throat. This one is unique and memorable. (6.2 percent ABV, 56 IBU.)

Swamp Head Brewing Big Nose IPA: This Gainesville brew offers a clean, fruity nose with just a hint of earthy quality, living up to its name. It has a classic IPA appearance, copper colored with a clean, medium-foamy head. On the palate, it is medium bitter, moderately citrusy with a present bite – easy to drink, yet with some muscle, along with lots of flavor from Centennial, Cascade and Columbus hops. This one is a really nice, quality IPA. My girlfriend’s cousins Skip and Felicia even sent me a sixer! (7.3 percent ABV, 63 IBU.)

3 Daughters Brewing Bimini Twist IPA: This one is big and earthy, only lightly citrusy on the nose. While this is one of the more bitter beers I got in exchange for my poop-scooping prowess, it is still well balanced, despite the considerable piney bite on the finish. This St. Petersburg beer would be a nice one to enjoy while eating a giant pile of Royal Reds shrimp steamed in Cajun spices. However, by the time I reached the end of the beer, I found it had taken on a metallic flavor that left me a little disappointed. Nevertheless, the brewers at 3 Daughters made the most of those 82 IBUs. This is a big ’un. (7.0 percent ABV, 82 IBUs.)

JDub’s Brewing Company Up Top IPA: This is another beer that brings plenty of citrus quality to the nose – think orange and grapefruit. The flavor matches, with only a mild bitterness finishing a beer that is just this side of sweet. This one is absolutely made for those afternoons of Sarasota sipping. Heck, this one could almost pass for a “session” IPA, it’s so crisp and smooth. Almost. (6.5 ABV, 55 IBU.)

Crooked Can Brewing Company High Stepper American IPA: This one has plenty of fruit sensation, with a nice tropical aroma. Touted as a “first sip on Friday” kind of beer, this American IPA from Winter Garden is lighter on the malt character than the others and higher in IBU, yet it doesn’t come off as unbalanced. Instead, this is one classic, refreshing, crisp IPA with plenty of grapefruit and other citrus flavors to go with hops bold enough to make all the hopheads smile. There also is a lingering acidic quality which may or may not please; let your palate decide. I like it. (7.0 percent ABV, 90 IBU.)

Coppertail Brewing Company FreeDive IPA: This one brings a big citrusy nose with a lighter body. This Tampa IPA is a fairly balanced, nicely carbonated summer sipper that conjures melons along with just a hint of piney sharpness on the finish. This is actually what one might expect a beer from Florida to be – it is crisp, citrusy and tropical almost to the point of being tart, but still has some teeth. (5.9 percent ABV, 65 IBU.)

Funky Buddha Brewing Hop Gun IPA: Classic IPA look with a hazy copper body and ample off white head, this brew from Oakland Park will is carefully balanced and just a really satisfying IPA. With caramel malts offering a big body with a hint of sweetness and hops bringing pineapple and grapefruit with a not-too-bitter finish, this one satisfies in pretty much all aspects. I only wish I had more. (7.0 percent ABV, 80 IBU.)