Pitched between Sanford and Orlando in Central Florida, Longwood boasts one of the finest nano-breweries the Sunshine State has to offer. HOURGLASS BREWERY is the pride and joy of brewers’ Brett Mason and Sky Conley, two beer enthusiasts who couldn’t resist starting thier own neighborhood pub.
Tucked behind an inconspicuous beige clapboard-sided ranch house in a glorified garage just off the main strip, Hourglass may be small, but its everchanging small-batch output (60-plus recipes since mid-2012) matches operations thrice its diminutive size.
It’s barely noon as I arrive at Hourglass for my initial December ’13 sojourn. At the right side driveway is a rustic outdoor patio setup. As patrons move towards the white door entrance, there are a few wood tables and chairs for outdoor quaffing. Upon entering, the taproom features an L-shaped black bar where Mason pours me four pints of homemade ales duirng a 90-minute session.
Snazzy surfboards, framed Florida-bound photos and a stenciled Back To The Future mural bedeck the walls and a beautiful maroon-glowed Salvadore Dali portrait is painted into the jet black ceiling. At the bay window across the glass-encased brewtanks is a drawing of Peter Griffin fighting the chicken in Family Guy.
Hourglass is the perfect little fort-sized hideway. And that’s fine with Mason, whose photos of his own ‘mancave’ a few miles away includes many vintage toys and loads of beer memorabilia, some of which he sold to get the brewery going.
“Why wouldn’t anyone want to start a brewery? It’s a place for friends to hangout and have some good beers,” Mason maintains as I down flagship A Maize Zing Cream Ale, a dry-bodied moderation with light maize-honeyed creaming and slight citrus spicing perfect for summer sessions.
A custom-wood designer by trade, Mason’s well-rounded job profile is reflected in the diversity of the recipes he and Conley craft. One of their best designs happens to be a ‘delectable strawberry, vanilla and Graham Cracker concoction.’
Despite all the one-off projects, the popular What Do You See? Brown Ale, with its sweet nougat center, peanut-shelled hazelnut roast, black chocolate bean bittering and minor hop-charred soap-stoning, can be found on many occasions.
Better still, richly expressive Prestissimo Strong Scotch Ale brought sugary cookie dough sweetness to black cherry-pureed dried fruiting and spicy cinnamon toasting.
Even more fantastic was today’s encore, the barleywine-like Schizandra Belgian Cherry Quad. Melding warm cognac, sweet sherry and dry burgundy into cherry-bruised orange tartness, its chewy caramel malt creaminess seals the deal.
Not only does Hourglass boast its own fine lineup, but there’s a refrigerator with at least 50 bottled selections. Before leaving, I picked up Beer Here’s Kremlin Crude Russian Imperial Stout, a rauchbier-smoked hybrid with a chocolate chip signature (reviewed in Beer Index).