Two decades ago, Bobby Gordash entered his homebrewed special English ale in the 1996 Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest.
The beer, Bob's Flywater Alenamed, named for Gordash's affinity for fly fishing, was a hit. Gordash became a finalist, and Boston Brewing Company invited him to brew a batch on location at the brewery in Massachusetts. Gordash eventually won the contest, and his beer was put into distribution across the United States a year later.
They were so impressed with the beer in Boston, Gordash says, that they brewed an extra batch to pour at a local festival. "I knew they loved it," he says. "I could tell."
The brewery designed a cartoon rendering of Gordash for the packaging, renamed the beer Special English Ale, and awarded him $5,000, which he used to invest in more homebrewing equipment and take a trip to the British Isles.
But his suds didn't exactly spark the craft beer industry that's known today. "Florida wasn't ready for it," Gordash says. "Crazy thing is, back then they didn't use the term 'craft beer'; they used 'microbreweries.'"
Nevertheless, Gordash's win also helped him launch Holy Mackerel Small Batch Beers a decade later. He sold the company name and brewing operations in 2011 but later returned as head brewer. His beers are still widely distributed throughout most of Florida.
Now Gordash has a small brewery of his own, and that's where he'll reintroduce the Special English Ale this Friday, November 3. The much-requested award-winning brew will be available on draft at the nanobrewery Holy Mackerel Garage Project in Pompano Beach.
The ale is brewed with a medley of malts including Maris Otter, Belgian Biscuit, Aeromatic, Munich, and Carapils, as well as a small amount of wheat malt. The hops profile includes Brewers Gold for most of the bittering and flavor, a bit of Columbus, Amarillo hops for dry hopping, and Falconer hops at the end. It's virtually the same base recipe, Gordash says, but hoppier because he knows people like that.
The brew was inspired by his love for Fuller's ESB (Extra Special Bitter) at the time, and he basically tried to clone the recipe but added Cascade hops at the end of the boil. Even his original recipe was a tad Americanized, he admits.
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"We're kind of modernizing a little bit for today's environment," he says. "It's definitely going to be more of a hoppier ESB."
Whether you love IPAs or English ales, Gordash says the newer version falls right in the middle. Sitting at 5.6 percent alcohol-by-volume, it was kegged Monday and will be tapped Friday. It's also getting conditioned in a cask and will be served from a British-style hand pump. There will be three taps altogether: one on the line and two from the cask. The tapping will begin at 5 p.m.
To commemorate the beer's original release, Gordash will also throw a '90s-themed party with nothing but '90s music.
Holy Mackerel Small Batch Beers and the Garage Project. 5 p.m Friday, November 3, at 3260 NW 23rd Ave., Bay 400E, Pompano Beach; 954-532-0196; holymackerelbeers.com.