As the Great American Beer Festival approaches (seven weeks and counting), there are literally hundreds of breweries shipping brews for judging and pouring for the ravenous fans in attendance. Of those nearly 600 breweries, only seven represent the state of Florida. As promised, over the next few weeks a different Florida brewery that is attending GABF will be highlighted. This week, Darwin’s on 4th in Sarasota is in the spotlight.
Darwin’s on 4th is the brainchild of Peruvian chef, Darwin Santa Maria. His Selva Grill in Sarasota and The Cottage on Siesta Key have established him as a culinary force and garnered him a great following. They also provided the stage for him to be named one of Food & Wine magazine’s top 10 chefs in the nation in 2001.
With a pedigree like that, there was little doubt that the chef’s newest venture, Darwin’s on 4th, would be success. All he had to do was continue with his winning ways and he would surely see triumph again. And, by all accounts, Darwin’s is exactly the smash it was expected to be. The twist, though, is that the space Santa Maria took over for the new restaurant was the site of a defunct restaurant/brewery known as the Rustic Grill and Mad Crow Brewery. With all the brewing equipment still in the building, the chef decided to bring on brewmaster Jared Barnes, formerly of Southern Tier Brewing Co. in New York, on to start a beer program.
Barnes was tasked with creating a signature beer for the restaurant named Darwin’s Evolution and several rotating brews. The size of their brew house – seven barrels – necessitated brewing in smaller batches, but did not slow the ambitious brewer and equally ambitious restaurateur in the least. Soon Barnes had produced Evolution – an American Wheat with a spicy hop profile and light body that weighs in at 6% ABV. Other brews in the brewery’s portfolio include a rarity among American breweries – a Berlinerweiss, Parle Dry English Stout, Summerdayze IPA, and another rarity, a Peruvian Chicha made with Peruvian purple corn, cassia buds, coriander, and cloves.