Thinking global and drinking local is all well and good, but I have a generously wide definition of local. If I can hop in my car and be at your door in a reasonable frame of time, that’s local enough for me. The siren’s call of good beer and good food is one I do not desire to resist no matter the miles that stand between us which brings me to one of my simple truths: good beer and good food. Within is a jovial commingling of community and family with a dash of friendly competition for added spice. I rejoice in absolute faith that one day Vero will be bustling with good beer and good food on street corners as far as the eye can see and beyond.
So where did my simple truth lead me? Why, to the Broken Barrel Tavern in Palm Bay, a short 30-40 minute jaunt north of my hometown. Local? Absolutely. It’s not the farthest I’ve cruised for good beer and good food and it won’t be the last. This wasn’t just a random road trip either. A momentous occasion had given cause for an equally momentous celebration: their 1 year anniversary.
I was a wee bit late in discovering this beery oasis of smoke and barbeque, but a year? Already? Wow and awesome! I’m not surprised in the least by their success, just in the way time flies though I’ve been having a lot of fun lately. All sincerely guiltless and proudly indulgent, of course.
Good times are meant to be shared and though I didn’t see as many of my beer peeps as I had hoped, there were a few. Even more impressive was the jostling crowd of merry-makers both inside and out. A good portion of the parking lot immediately in front of Broken Barrel Tavern was roped and barricaded off. Contained within were a Samuel Adams truck, tent, tables, and a sound stage where bands rocked their way into the evening. It was only around 10pm that the bandstand had to call it quits. Whoever was playing when I arrived around 3pm, to be quite frank, sucked, but overall the eclectic mix of live music was enjoyed by all. I was particularly impressed by the last two performances.
Just because you can’t enjoy live music outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy live music inside, and so we did. Of all the bands that day, the indoor house band was my personal favorite by a landslide. They were also the loudest. And so I once more stumble upon my only recurring crux with the Broken Barrel: head-pounding decibels. Indoor music can have a tendency to reverb, and their building both showcases and enhances music sometimes too well. Decibels aside, I unfortunately didn’t get to listen to their whole set but overall there was much toe-tapping in rhythm with their jazzy island funk.
Saturday is normally a full work day, but I pulled out early thanks to my coworker and friend, Sharon. You rock, sister! Thanks! A quick stop home and I was off to good beer and good food destiny. The interstate was my usual route there, but my trip home was along the more scenic US Highway 1. With no discernable difference in trip time, US1 is my newly preferred route. Since there is far more of Broken Barrel’s tasty menu to explore, it’ll be a path well traveled, believe you me.
Obviously good beers were without question, but let’s talk food first.
I’ve never been a big fan of barbeque and smoked fare. Boring and far from anything sensational enough to set these tastebuds aquiver, lips smacking, and heart swooning was how I felt. At least, that was until my first life-altering trip a few months ago. Many places will tout in-house smoking, fresh meat, and a daily routine of loving food preparation. The reality of many establishments is anything but scintillating. Being a Food Network whore, I’ve watched many barbeque and smoked food specials where heart-felt words of love were lavished upon meat so tender, so succulent, you could have died right then and there for heaven had already been found. Rolling indifferent eyes, I figured my life to forever be a barren wasteland devoid of such mouthwatering barbeque and savory smoke.
Enter the Broken Barrel Tavern of Palm Bay, Florida.
Amen, hallelujah, and peanut butter. Consider this poor lost soul found, reformed, and enlightened. It is now my mission to spread the sacred gospel of real smoke and barbeque mastery. Don’t believe me? You will. I won over two converts that night whom I now crown Brother Eric and Brother Randall. We have seen the light and she glows in hot whites and brilliant ambers.
Before my brothers in barbeque arrived, I was long relaxing at my table in the back where WiFi was mooched in good stead. Between Facebooking and posting in my blog, beers were supped and savored with appropriate nibblies inbetween. The irony of posting a BEERflection while soaking in the ambiance and fun for a future BEERflection didn’t escape notice. And so here I sit a few weeks later with napkin in hand for the drool I am certain will ensue in memorandum as the lingering flavors, sights, and sounds of that special evening replay vividly onto paper.
One of my Vero peeps had let me in on a little known tasting secret just in time for the celebratory festivities: smoked buffalo wings. Unsurprisingly, I am also a buffalo wing whore and no more needed saying. Dry-rubbed and smoked to melting perfection, they come in perfect 10s with a choice of 6 dipping sauces. Hah! Not that they needed any dipping. I enjoy the tenderly fried and saucily dressed wings, but these…these have raised wings to epic heights of awesomeness not tasted in my 20+ years of wingly indulgence…until now. Dry-rubbed with a secret mix of spices and then slowly smoked, the outer skin crunches between fingers before a watershed of smoky buffalo wing juices cascade over lips, across tastebuds, and down my throat. What followed was a righteous track of scintillating moans, groans, and finger-licking smacks of pleasure. It was truly an orgy of pecan wood, smoke, spice, crunch, and the tenderest buffalo wing meat ever.
Time was taken, flavors savored, and many a napkin happily soiled by what few precious juices these lips couldn’t rescue. My dip of choice was the bourbon (yum!) barbeque glaze which mingled perfectly with her buffalo brothers. In confession, I did dip here and there, but very few and even farther inbetween.
For an anniversary celebration, Broken Barrel was not really pressed for space. Personally, it helped that I arrived early but with their massively cozy layout and outside festivities, I never once felt crowded. The table where I stooped was meant for a group of people, but never did an evil eye or scornful glare pass my way. After all, a web-surfing note-taking food-snarfing beer-savoring geek needs her space. That and I figured at least a few Vero peeps would show up and I was right. Jim and his wife arrived not too long after with kids in tow; amusing themselves elsewhere, Jim snuck away many times to talk beer with me. Eric and Randall arrived later in the afternoon and lingered the night away at our table.
I’m proud of the good friends good beer has brought into my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Next in line to tantalize our tastebuds were the brisket slider trio which arrived with a huge side of sweet potato fries indulgently covered in powdered sugar and maple syrup, ohmy! They had Mom’s name written all over them. Cleanliness and proper table manners are not an option when indulging in brisket slider nirvana such as the ones we ate in juicy, slurpy, soggy enjoyment. Tenderly smoked and happily swimming in their own succulent meaty juices, the little buns never stood a chance. Shoving the whole slider in my mouth would have been a wee bit uncouth, but it only took a few generous bites before fingers entered mouth in suckling pleasure. Wow and wow.
Inbetween our snarfing and our supping (I’ll be getting to the beers soon. Patience.), raffles were drawn and lucky winners rejoiced. A few of the many items being raffled included: Palm 6packs with glass, Samuel Adams perfect pint glasses, Samuel Adams beer fridge, Florida Beer Company t-shirts, 2009 Samuel Adams Utopias, 42” LCD flat screen TV, and multiple trips in the money machine. Money machine? Yes, those humanoid lost-in-space enclosures where amidst a swirly flurry of bills and a buzzer, we greedily scrabble to collect as much greenery as possible before the buzzer sounds again. Eric the Lucky won both a Palm 6pack with glass and a trip in the money machine for a raucous mix of envy and joviality.
Getting back to the food...
While I continued to toss back water, savor beers, scribble notes, and Facebooke, Eric ordered the pulled pork Cuban with carrot fries. I’ve had the carrot fries before and this batch wasn’t as good. In particular, they hadn’t been fried long enough and were a sliver too thin. Maybe next time. The pulled pork Cuban? I personally didn’t taste any since I was feeling a wee bit full then, but Eric said it was alright. I’ll just have to try it myself sometime and see what this aspiratory burgundians final opinion is.
And then arrived the rack of ribs. Foodvana was restored and all was right in our world.
Eric was MIA when the ribs arrived stretching far past the meager limits of its plate. Black with a thick layer of dry-spiced rub enticement, nothing could hold back the smoky spicy succulence of her being. As Randall pulled a slab off the end, pulled immediately became the wrong word of choice. More like Randall looked at the piece he wanted and it fell willingly into his open hands. Try as I might, resistance was wholly futile and the stomach happily made way for a few mouth-melting ribs of my own. Once more an orgy of juicy smoky meaty delights exploded atop my tastebuds and trickled down my chin. Just thinking about it, I must have them. Again and again and again. It was righteous burgundian paradise we all experienced that night. A perfect last course, we lingered long while savoring the celebratory beers on tap for Broken Barrel’s very special birthday.
Kevin and his partner in burgundian pleasure worked for months with various distributors and breweries to line up a sweet set of beers to toast the evening. In fact, they ultimately settled on three sets of draft beers:
- Tier 1: Allagash Black; Cigar City Humidor Gruit; Ichetegems Grand Cru; Smuttynose Imp Stout; Stone 13th Anniversary; Terrapin dark Side
- Tier 2: Allagash Curieux; Dogfish Head Fort; Dogfish Head Red & White; Lagunitas Hop Stoopid; Ommegang Belgian-style Pale Ale
- Tier 3: Bells Kalamazoo; Highland Brewing Seven Sisters; Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot; Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Pioneers Stout; Tripel Karmeliet
Outside of the beers especially on draft for their anniversary, Broken Barrel Tavern always sports a wonderfully eclectic collection of artisanal beers from America and abroad. They love their beers almost as much as I do and yes, they carry it.
When the three of us finally headed our separate ways home, the bar was still on Tier 1. I unfortunately haven’t been back since but would imagine they have slowly tapped their way through the other Tiers. The majority of beers I wanted to taste and notarize were in Tier 1 so the night still worked in my favor. A few remained untasted, but there are plenty of other beers out there with which to get my flavor on.
I started my evening of beery goodness with the newly indomitable Florida brewery, Cigar City out of Tampa. The beer in question was the Humidor Gruit. Historically speaking, gruit was an herb mixture used to bitter, flavor, and preserve beer for centuries long before hops were discovered and eventually accepted. How close Cigar City came to the original gruit is up for undeterminable debate, but I found her deliciously of the earth, proudly sporting a perfume of herbs, flower petals, pollen, roots, and cedar. Beery inspiration I was more than happy to drink from. She was eventually followed by an Ichetegems Grand Cru, Terrapin Dark Side, and Allagash Black. Of the four, Cigar City and Terrapin were the most personally pleasing. The Terrapin Dark Side was a Belgian-style stout with a tart lactic twist. A sharp sour twang in the back teased and tickled the sides of my cheeks with each playful quaff. She reminded me of the Madrugada Obscura from Jolly Pumpkin, another Belgian-style stout with a tart lactic twist. Yum on both counts.
Like a good little beer tasting geek, I interspersed each glass of beer with an equally full glass of water. Eventually we just kept a full pitcher of water on hand to fill our glasses with hydration righteousness. When drinking long and a lot, relatively speaking, water is key to rehydration while food is key to absorption. Of course, if I am drinking long and a lot, whatever passes these lips better be of tasteful designs or the above matters little and linger long I will not. There are other oases out there, after all.
Since Tier 2 still wasn’t tapped and the evening’s end was in view, my curtain call was a 12oz (versus 750ml) bottle of the unapologetically sourful complexity of the Cantillon 100% Pure Kriek. I craved SOUR and Cantillon delivered with tasteful aplomb as they always do. Tired and sated, we captured our waitress’ attention before wandering into the warm night air. Breathing deep, we slowly moseyed our way to vehicular transportation. A wonderful birthday celebration, I look forward to celebrating many more with the Broken Barrel Tavern of Palm Bay, Florida along with as many random visits inbetween as possible. After all, if you have good beer and good food, I will be there.
Thank you and good night
(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)