As a college student in Idaho, Jamie Ray’s first exposure to the wide world of beer came during a visit to a bar offering over 100 different beers. Though the beers were mostly imports, back in this 1980s era, he took on the bar’s “world tour” challenge and discovered many beers that remain among his favorites today. During that same time frame, while visiting family in Yakima, Washington, the curious beer lover took note of the early efforts of Bert Grant and the Redhook brewery.
Inspired by the fledgling micro movement, Jamie joined the local homebrewers club in Boise in 1990. Inquisitive and thirsty, he and a group of friends began brewing every weekend. But mistakes outnumbered successes. Within six months, Jamie quit brewing, frustrated over his failures. Analyzing his brewing labors, he later re-approached the homebrewing hobby determined to do things correctly rather than rushed. His new all-grain beers, fermented with liquid yeast and brewed with proper equipment, “improved quality exponentially.” Contrasting his initial experience, Jamie found homebrewing to be “fun and enlightening” this time around.
Three years later, while enrolled at a small college in northern Idaho, Jamie took a big step toward brewing as a profession. Naturally, he joined the local home brewers club, but he also began brewing for microbrewery Treaty Ground. Working with one dairy tank turned mash tun, a brew kettle and one unitank, he brewed every two weeks in “one big weekend,” making two regular ales and an occasional seasonal brew, all of which had to be kegged.
While attending a brewing seminar sponsored by Brewing Tech Magazine in Portland, Oregon in 1994, Jamie met a group of Floridians with big plans. Impressed by the McMenamin brother’s Pacific Northwest concept of homey brewpubs, these entrepreneurs hoped to open a Miami-area brewpub of similar style in a “funky building down on South Beach.” Jamie got the call later that year, packed his swim suit and never looked back.
This venture, Del Sol Brewing Company, never reached fruition. Pieced together from used equipment, the brewhouse wasn’t quite ready, though the Del Sol bar had been open for three months, when the landlord pulled the rug out from under the owners. suddenly Jamie found himself practically homeless. By August 1995, the desperate beer fiend found work at a start-up brewpub in Key West. Hammerhead Brewing was in need of an interim brewer. Jamie signed on, flying to Key West every other week to brew and eventually train Hammerhead’s new brewer.
The brewing industry then took the roving brewer to Miami again. Back in South Beach, the old Clevelander Hotel had installed a small three-barrel brewing system overlooking the swimming pool. Anxious to stay in the area, Jamie took the assistant brewer’s position in the brewhouse. At the time, the Clevelander Hotel was the state’s biggest beer sales site. The facility featured five bars, though only two served the Hotel’s own beer. Budmillercoors ruled in this hot, humid climate, leaving Jamie with the sense that this job had a great degree of instability. So when Kevin Rusk introduced himself and spoke of his Coral Gables brewpub plan, the displaced Idaho brewer took note.
The Titanic Project, as it was called, took 16 months from lease signing to the first brew. The brewpub’s five barrel DME system was commissioned in April 1999. Jamie used construction time to develop his recipes, establishing six regular beers. Four seasonal beer recipes were also prepared, though the regular brews move so fast that seasonal tap space is seldom available. The recipes today are mostly unchanged from his original Titanic Project developmental work.
Titanic Brewing Company’s Triple Screw Light is the brewpub’s biggest seller. Comprising about 45% of sales, this German-style kolsch ale won a silver medal at the 2001 Great American Beer Festival, joining Jamie’s three other GABF medals on the brewpub’s wall. The kolsch is very pale gold in color, light in mouthfeel and floral in aroma from German hops.
Brewed with imported Maris Otter malt, Britannic Best Bitter is traditional British in style. Along with caramel and two-row malts, East Kent Goldings hops and English ale yeast, the resulting drink is amber hued, fruity in body and malty with a submerged hop bitterness. Boiler Room Nut Brown, which took silver in its cask conditioned version at the 2000 Real Ale Festival in Chicago, is very UK in style. It also includes Maris Otter in the malt bill, augmented with roasted malt. This recipe produces a reddish brown, medium bodied beer full of fruity, malty flavor with a subdued nutty dryness. In the naturally carbonated firkin, Jamie uses orange blossom honey to prime the re-ferment.
In his own Americanized interpretation of the style, Jamie’s White Star India Pale Ale employs Northwest Cascades and British-grown hops resulting in citrusy floral bitterness, underlying malt smoothness and a well-stated bitter finish. Shipbuilders Oatmeal Stout gets the full treatment with domestic and imported malts, rolled oats and Northwest hops. Nearly black with brown highlights, this full-bodied beer packs a complexity of aroma and tastes. Chocolate, mocha, coffee, burnt currant, all caressed by a smoothing oatmeal effect enhanced by nitrogen/carbon dioxide blend, emerge from this dark ale.
Captain Smith’s Rye Ale, a German-style amber brewed with 20% malted rye, is Titanic’s biggest award winner. With slight cereal taste, this clean and spicy ale took bronze in the 1999 GABF competition and scored twice in 2000 with silvers in the World Beer Cup and GABF.
Situated right next to the University of Miami campus, Titanic Brewing caters to students, faculty and neighbors. Jamie’s brewhouse resides in the dining areas, giving everyone a panoramic view as they dine on selections from an expansive menu that specializes in seafood entrees but includes family fare and comfort foods as well. As every bar should, the appetizer menu is large.
Beer battered shrimp and malt-dusted fish and chips incorporate Titanic beer in their recipes. Jamie is most proud of the brewpub’s quarterly beer dinners. Extravagant five-course meals pair food and beer, accompanied by commentary from the brewer himself. Past dinners have featured Rye Ale Marinated Roast Pork, Roast Goose with Apple and Cabbage, and Ossobuco Braised with Rye Ale.
Titanic Brewing is expanding to a second location. Thirty miles north in Pimbroke Pines, west of Ft. Lauderdale, this slightly larger brewhouse will feature six regulars and a guaranteed two seasonals on tap at all times. Jamie will hire and train an assistant to help with this new operation.
In barely ten years, time, study and practice turned a frustrated Idaho homebrewer into an award-winning Florida brewer. Jamie Ray has found his American dream in Titanic Brewing Company.
Titanic Brewing Company
5813 Ponce De Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33146