Confession: I didn’t know what a “reef donkey” was before reviewing this beer. Deeper confession: I assumed it was a sexual term for a person who gets turned on by full-bodied wet suits and brightly colored coral. What can I say? I’m not very mature. Ask my wife.
Turns out, “reef donkey” isn’t a sexual term at all. It’s a fishing term, slang for the amberjack, a fish that likes to hang out in the wrecks and reefs off the coast of Florida. I didn’t even have to Google it because Tampa Bay Brewing explains it right there on the can.
As for the beer inside that can, it’s also not what I expected. This American Pale pours deep orange and emits a powerful bouquet of orange and lime. All things from Florida either smell like a bushel of oranges or sun tan lotion, and this beer fits squarely in the former category. Based on the color and aroma, I was expecting another juicy pale so sweet, it would make me want to schedule a cleaning at the dentist. But this pale isn’t as sweet as the nose leads you to believe. It’s more orange rind than orange juice, with plenty of bitter notes and even a bit of astringency on the backend. For a pale, there’s a hell of a lot of hop bite and spice, without the typical malty sweetness to balance it out. In fact, the greatest balancing act comes from the creamy mouthfeel, which helps counteract that powerful hop zest.
In the end, Reef Donkey plays out more like one of the new breed of session IPAs than a pale, delivering a fistful of hops with a dry finish and very little to offer on the other end of the spectrum. I expected the profile to change as the beer warmed in my glass, but the beer stayed pretty consistent as it crept towards room temperature.
Speaking of glasses, is it weird that I like this beer better straight out of the can? Tampa Bay Brewing puts it in a nice “tallboy” can, which I love because it reminds me of the Busch Light tallboys I drank in high school (who decided 12 ounces would be the standard can size, anyway?). I know it’s not terribly sophisticated to drink from the can, but somehow with this beer, it works. It’s creamier and spicier coming straight out of aluminum. That’s my opinion at least. You don’t have to listen to me at all, especially after that whole “reef donkey” mistake.
Brewery: Tampa Bay Brewing Company
City: Tampa Bay, Florida
Style: American Pale Ale
Availability: Year round, tallboy cans