About fifteen members of the Miami Area Society of Homebrewers (MASH) and their kin gathered this weekend to celebrate the birth of Bacchus — er, Jesus -- on a screened-in patio on Mark and Diane Kelley's lush 5 acre compound in Homestead.
The sun eased down behind the green of their patchy slice of jungle when I arrived, dodging bumbling zebra butterflies. Inside, the county's beer cabal bellowed merry laughter as they filled their soft bellies with draughts.
A table off in the corner contained twelve different bottles of the world's oldest booze: mead. The process of fermented honey was stumbled upon by a pack of curious prehistoric shamans, who drank standing water out of abandoned beehives. In the Classical Greek, "drunk" actually means "intoxicated on honey." And, as early as 2 pm, several of MASH's members were.
An old yellow refrigerator wired with four taps bled American Wheat, Strong Scotch, English Bitter and a Sweet Meade into bottomless mugs. Another table was addled with the growlers and bottles of MASH's submissions for the upcoming Coconut Cup in February —a regional beer competition held at the Titanic Restaurant and Brewery in the Gables that draws over 300 entries.
As the night wore on, the rare bottles began to make their appearances. Russsell Everett, an international law student at UM, carted out a champagne bottle of cask-flavored Belgian Sour. Peter Buschbaum (a former chemistry teacher) produced a bottle of mead flavored with Black Locust flowers.
The high point of the evening arrived with the pop of a bottle of ">Chateau Jiahu —Dogfish Head brewing company's second part of their ancient beer series. The recipe was retro-engineered from 9,000 year residue scraped off a preserved pottery jar found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China.
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Hawthorn fruit, Chrysanthemum flowers and Muscat grapes super-charged with sake yeast pleased five drinkers, who stood in a circle, riding the nuances with glazed eyes.