Brewery owner, founder, brewer (and as sole employee, almost everything else), Bob Sylvester created this beer just for our members, and we’re pretty darn psyched to be bringing it to you. The beer is named for the Cynthiana grape, also known as the Norton varietal, named after Dr. D. N. Norton of Richmond, Virginia, who first grew the hybrid in 1820. It’s the oldest cultivated American grape, and is one of, if not the only true, native grape variety in the U.S. As Bob is fond of using local Florida ingredients in his beers (as well as Belgian malts and European whole leaf hops), it came as no surprise to us that he sourced these grapes from a small vineyard in North Florida, which, as Bob pointed out to us, “is the birthplace of wine in the US thanks to the Spaniards.” Incidentally we love talking with Bob, he’s like a proud papa when he describes the history and various virtues of his home state. The Cynthiana grape must (i.e. the fresh pressed skins, seeds and juice) is added to the secondary fermenter, where some sugars are fermented out but plenty of the character remains in the beer—though this particular grape is known for its relatively neutral qualities, so don’t be surprised if its influence is nuanced. Cynthiana pours an absolutely gorgeous copper orange color, dressed with a large, cream-colored head. A truly beautiful beer—hold it up and let it catch some sunlight to really appreciate how beautiful this beer is. Our noses are greeted by a truly welcoming aroma—notes of fresh oranges and lemon zest are profound—sunshine and citrus—a liquid version of old world Florida! There is a richness, almost a creaminess blanketing the scent, and such robust Belgian character, it’s almost as if we’re at a café in West Flanders, drinking a freshly drawn bolleke of Belgian ale. We also got a flash of white wine (think Chardonnay) as it stills, whereas swirling amplifies up the fresh fruit and floral perfume that is at the core of this beer. A bit of sweet dough makes its way out as well. Now, we could sniff this beautiful brew all day, but, eventually one must move on. On the palate, the beer is less fruity than the nose would suggest, offering a wine-like dryness, and the kind of gentle bitterness you get from apple and grape skins. When young, there’s a minor suggestion of plantains, but this will fade relatively quickly as the beer ages. Look for a mild tartness and some subtle suggestions of tea with lemon, with a light bite of black pepper. In the finish, there is a nice, cleansing bitterness that approaches lime zest—a wonderful combination of the whole cone strisselspalt hops and the grapes. Finishes with very pleasant, vinous after-breaths and an ever-present citrus zest. This truly is a lovely beer, one that transports us to old world Belgium, by way of western Florida!? Who would have thought beer this good, this authentically Belgian, could have come from just outside Tampa? Bob Sylvester, that’s who. Remember that you cannot get this beer outside of the club, unless maybe you visit the brewery and nip on some of Bob’s limited personal collection, so if you want more to enjoy, or, to taunt your friends with (whatever floats your boat), consider upping your order this month. Our thanks go out to Bob for brewing this up for us. He also provided us with some notes regarding cellaring this beer—as Cynthiana will hold up nicely for at least three years—“as it ages, the maltiness will rise along with the usual Belgian Dubbel notes of raisin, rum and toffee, but will become drier due to the yeast and the grapes.” We can hardly wait to check in on our own stash at 6-month intervals from 6, 12, 18 and 24-36+ months down the road. This is some great beer—now and later. Cheers friends!