One of the major benefits of visiting your local brewery is the ability to try one-off batches, often versions of flagship offerings with various flavoring additions.
Some of these beers eventually make it to the production level, like Cigar City's White Oak Jai Alai, or 3 Daughters' Awake Coffee Blonde. Most, however, never see distribution, rewarding an in-person visit with the chance to sample experimental brews.
The caveat to this is the fleeting nature of these beers, especially at breweries like St. Pete Brewing Co., which only brews in relatively small seven-barrel (just over 200 gallons) batches to begin with. They come and go quickly.
St. Pete Brewing's Banyan Blonde ale is an ideal base beer for flavoring treatments. It's on the drier end of the blonde ale spectrum and somewhat assertively hopped, though it's balanced enough to allow ample room for a fruit treatment, like the Cherry Blonde version currently on tap at the time of this writing.
Cherry Blonde pours a brilliant cherry red, naturally, and it has a mild cherry aroma, which is intriguing in the context of Banyan's otherwise floral and spicy hop nose. At first taste, the cherries seem to provide more color and aroma than flavor, despite the fact that 15 pounds of fresh cherries were added to this one-barrel pilot batch.
As the beer warms, however, the cherry flavor becomes increasingly pronounced, adding a sweet, candylike undertone while avoiding the dreaded medicinal quality that many cherry beers fall victim to.
Of course, one barrel of beer doesn't last long, so there's a chance that you may miss this one. The good news is that St. Pete Brewing has plans for lots of beer treatments in the future, such as mango and guava versions of Banyan Blonde ale. Check the website to see what's on, and if you see one that looks tasty, don't wait!
St. Pete Brewing, 544 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 692-8809' stpetebrewingcompany.com.
— Justin Grant
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