Neighbors must have thought Florida Keys Brewing Co.’s Brad Mullis was a little off when – in the middle of Hurricane Irma– he ran outside with buckets, staring into the sky like Chicken Little.
“They asked me what the hell I was doing,” laughed Mullis, who collected “three or four gallons” of rain water before darting back in.
He hadn’t gone completely crazy. In actuality, he was hard at work catching rainwater for his Hurricane Irma brew.
Mullis says the plan originated when Hurricane Matthew skimmed Florida. The crew at Florida Keys Brewing, ever the innovators, wanted to make a completely hurricane-supplied beer.
“We tried to trap rain water off a gutter to do it, but it was a bust,” said Mullis.
With Irma coming, the stars aligned for another shot at glory and Mullis capitalized. Now on Saturday, Dec. 16, the brewery will be officially unveiling, and pouring, his latest creation.
Always the gentleman, Mullis invited the Weekly along for a secret tasting and shared the juicy details of what could be the rarest beer in the Keys.
Only 50 gallons of the limited brew will ever be in existence, in two versions. 45 gallons will be on tap during the release party. This version of the brew will be a flavorful Belgium Strong Ale. The rainwater used to brew this version came from the Beer Garden’s cistern and was filtered through charcoal.
The remaining Irma Brew will be put into a five gallon firkin keg, and contains fruits Mullis collected after the storm. This version also contains the rainwater Mullis braved the storm to collect (PSA: don’t try this at home, kids.)
“The day after the storm I started to notice fruit on the ground from fallen trees. I grabbed what I could, and came home with a couple limes, a couple star fruit, and a handful of cherries,” said Mullis. “Later I wrote the recipe, learned what I had to do, and got the green light from Craig.”
Irma Brew contains 10.5 percent alcohol by volume, with banana, clove, and tropical notes as the dominant flavors first noticed, said Mullis.
“The name Irma has Germanic roots, so I wanted to brew a strong Germanic beer,” he said. “This beer is more symbolic than anything to me. I feel like it’s a part of our rebuilding as a brewery and community.
At the impromptu tasting, Key West bartender Alan Gold sampled an early version of the beer before giving his input.
“The nose is a little deceptive, it smells a little like a sour, but tastes like it has tropical fruits in it. I’m a fan,” he said. “I definitely look forward to this being produced, even though it’s unfortunately not making its way to Key West.”
The Florida Keys Brewing Co., located at MM 82.5 Oceanside, is preparing to move into a larger tap room in early 2018, and will be offering guides tours and tastings. Expect more funky ideas.