In The Tasting Room: Inlet Brewing's Monk In The Trunk

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Friday's here, so it's time for beer.

Every Friday, so long as the creek don't rise, this beer enthusiast will take a look at a Florida beer that, hopefully, should be readily available in a local shop or on tap at your favorite bar.

Contemplation; the work of both monks and beer drinkers alike. While the former withdraws into solitude to ponder the theological aspects of God and the nature of man, the later will often seek out a beer that makes them think -- lets call it a religious experience of taste.

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That is the theme for this week's tasting room beer, the Floridian branded Monk in the Trunk. Contemplation. Of what it means to be organic, and what it means to be from Florida.

Monk in the Trunk is Belgian-styled amber ale brewed under the supervision of the Inlet Brewing Company out of Jupiter, Florida. It uses Belgian yeasts in combination with USDA and CCOF certified organic grain and hops to produce a crisp and slightly malty beer. This is something your vegan friends can get behind.

The CCOF, or California Certified Organic Farmers organization, is one of the larger certification programs in the United States. Food products can receive this seal of approval by being free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering (GMOs), or the use of ionizing radiation. For this beer, that means that all of the malted barley and bittering hops are from farms who use strict guidelines in the growth and harvesting of these plants.

Does it make a better product? That's something to contemplate. It certainly doesn't make it a worse product, and many will find comfort in the fact that the beer's ingredients are sourced from places that seek to use water conservation methods and environmentally safe farming techniques.

Thinking aside, how does it taste? After pouring into a snifter, there was a great thick off-white head of foam which released wet grain and caramel malty aromas with a hint of brewed honey. It was a nice clear copper-orange in color; amber ale, indeed! The initial sample was at about 45F, and at that temperature it was very crisp on the tongue, and very enjoyable. This transitioned into a buttery bread flavor and a very mild bitterness to seal the deal. It's kind of light, bready, and mildly sweet. No need to contemplate that part!

Now, the next part is what has brought this writer into the near state of an identity crisis. Is it Floridian?

The beer itself is brewed in Greenville, South Carolina by a company called Thomas Creek Brewing. The brewers put out a fair and wide range of beers under their own label, but around 50% of their production is what is termed 'contract brewing', where a brewmaster will give the recipes and instructions to a third party facility, who brews the beer according to those specifications. What comes out is essentially the same thing that was produced on, say, the pilot system of the recipe creator. This can be handy for a brewer who lacks the space needed to run a full production brewery, and is beneficial to the producer, who can make extra money by running contracts on empty fermenters.

So does that make Monk a Florida beer or a South Carolina one? Again, contemplation time.

As CraftBeer.com puts it, "This business structure is very common in the wine industry (often called "custom crush") and specialty food trades," but is still seen as a debateable system in the craft beer world. The head brewer at Thomas Creek, Tom Davis, who oversees production of the beers, has an approach that should assuage the fears of those who may think that this contract brewing partnership is automatically a bad thing. "Tom simply loves brewing and isn't as concerned with what label goes on the bottle when it leaves the brewery."

In closing, Monk in the Trunk is a solid, malty, organically produced Belgian-styled amber ale. Like Apple, it's designed in one place and produced in another, but with the same care that a founders brewery would take. Where does that put the beer categorically? What are your thoughts on contract brewing?

As always, drink good beer, and #drinklocal.

Beer things in your Twitter feed -- Follow me @DougFairall





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