Not wanting to strictly stick to a common lineup of beers that include stouts or pale ales, Gravity Brewlab's Diego Ganoza is always making one thing or another that begs the question: you can do that with beer?
For example, one of the beers Ganoza brought to the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in Denver was Of Ice and Fire, a Basque-style barrel-fermented cranberry cider that was among the sourest at the show. This approach to beer is what got him selected to pour October 16 and 17 at the Shelton Brothers Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Shelton Brothers are purveyors of small batch beer, mead and ciders from around the world. Based in Massachusetts, they import and distribute some of the most internationally recognized beers, like from Cantillon and Mikkeller.
From Norway to Japan and everywhere in between, the annual two-day festival mainly consists of international breweries. You can't just enter; you have to be invited. Ten Florida breweries were on the list this year, nine for the first time, including Oakland Park's Funky Buddha Brewery.
It's a festival of breweries that are serious about their sours. How serious is Ganoza?
He researched the most obscure beer styles on the planet and found Basque cider. From what Ganoza's found, it's fermented with the natural bacteria and yeast hiding in decades-old wine barrels.
Instead of carbonated, the final product comes out flat. Inspiration came from a recent tasting of Spanish ciders at Sunset Corners Fine Wine and Spirits. He was impressed by the complexity and layers of flavors. "It's very different from your British cider, which is very clean, sweet, crisp," Ganoza says. "And then you have the Basque, which is a totally different animal."
Instead of apples, he used cherries and cranberries. He brewed Of Ice and Fire and Cherry Poppins, a Basque-style cherry cider. He took both to the GABF. And instead of using very old wine barrels, the ones Ganoza used were relatively young.
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At the Shelton Brothers Festival, Ganoza will be pouring Cherry Poppins; his saison, Sunshine State of Mind; Grodzilla, a smokey sour ale; and a black currant American wild ale.
The American list includes breweries like California's Libertine Brewing, Oklahoma's Prairie Artisan Ales, and Colorado's Crooked Stave. International breweries include several Belgians like Cantillon. The list goes on.
If you're passionate about world-class sours, this is probably the festival for you. The good news is that tickets are still available for $65 for all three sessions, minus tickets for VIP and early bird admission.
If you miss the festival, you can at least count on Gravity to bring the wildest beers to Miami. "Spanish ciders are coming down here a lot more, at restaurants, stores," Ganoza says. "Down in Miami, Sunset Corners and Total Wine, and now we'll be added to that list."