I seem to be riding the South Florida craft beer train lately; last week I attended the Shipyard Brewing beer dinner at 50 Ocean in Delray Beach, and yesterday I toured and tasted at Big Bear Brewing Co in Coral Springs. Matthew Cox is the Brewmaster at Big Bear Brewing and has been the master of malt for the past 12 years out the 15 the restaurant has been open. Cox has landed numerous awards over the decade plus for his brews, so much so, the inside joke at Big Bear Brewing is there’s not enough wall space to continue to display all the accolades Cox has secured for the brewing company.
This neighborhood venue has quite the loyal-local following; just shy of 300 seats this mammoth brew pub/American grill is the Cheers of Coral Springs. There are 169 22-oz mugs hanging around the bar, named and numbered for each of the guests who belong to the Brew Club; from what Matt tells me it is quite the competitive lottery so if brews and beers and malt and hops is your thing, consider this a tip, get your name on the brew list lottery before April 1.
Awards and accolades aside, the quietly talented Cox is impeccably well-versed in his craft and to further this point have him tour you in his brewery and then for $8.50 do the 8-beer sampler, it is a very interesting way to spend a few hours on any given afternoon.
Sometimes you just want/need an ice cold beer and no matter the brand or style it works; the colder the better. But it’s hard to pick up all the fine nuances that make up a beer if it’s ice cold. The longer my beers sat at room temperature the more aromatic and flavorful they became. While I enjoyed them cold, I truly appreciated them as they were meant to be enjoyed the longer they sat. The Kodiac Belgian Dubbel was the only beer I didn’t try; they had run out and another batch was fermenting during my visit; it wasn’t a let down by any means, as I had seven other beers to keep me occupied. Matthew’s beer list changes regularly so it’s best to check out the Big Bear Brewing website for the list of selections. My tasting did not disappoint, very much like wine, the various styles that Matthew crafts all have their place singularly on your palate or ideally with a food pairing, it just depends on what you like. The dark horse for me was the seasonal fruit ale, apricot. When Matthew told me about it, I judged and formulated preconceived notions in my mind. And once again, true to the old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover or in this case don’t discount a fruit ale without tasting it, especially if it’s hand crafted in small batches.
Cox and Big Bear Brewing are riding high after their decade plus of hard work and putting their stamp on the craft beer movement in South Florida and beyond, but it wasn’t always an easy sell; residential small town Coral Springs + hand-crafted micro brews = a lot of samples, a lot of community involvement, and undeniable genuine guest interaction and education. This overnight, twelve year success story is now looking to do beer pairing events, and will probably be held on the outdoor patio come season as the weather begins to turn more amiable. In the meantime, daily specials and menu items are paired with Matthew’s beers. An instrumental part of Big Bear Brewing’s success is the on-going training each and every single staff member goes through, not just to become familiar with the beer but to knowledgeably discuss, understand and recommend to guests. Big Bear Brewing Co. is located at 1800 North University Drive in Coral Springs, they’re open seven days a week, Matthew is there mostly weekdays, so if you’re planning a visit and want to meet Matthew I recommend calling ahead to check his availability. Click here to view more photos from my visit.