All this week Brooklyn Brewery is holding their Mash event in Miami. The event comprises an entire week of food, videos, round table discussions, music, and more. Last night, however, was their Round Table discussion on the Craft Beer revolution spearheaded by Brooklyn Brewery co-founder (and former journalist with some incredible stories) Steve Hindy and his new book The Craft Beer Revolution.
To celebrate the book, industry, and beer in general, Brooklyn Brewery hosted a round table discussion with the owners/brewmasters of five major South Florida breweries: Dustin Jeffers from Saltwater Brewing in Delray Beach, Jonathan Wakefield from J. Wakefield Brewing, Raymond Rigazio from The Abbey Brewing Co., Pete Schnebly from Miami Brewing Co., and Jose Mallea from Biscayne Bay Brewing, at whose brewery the event was held.
It’s not the easiest place to find, especially in Miami rush hour and with the construction currently outside the small business park where the brewery is currently located. The tap room isn’t open yet, but the brewery is in full production and distributing in South Florida. I am definitely looking forward to them opening to the public soon. (When they do, use the address on the website instead of the one in Google Maps. The Google address leads to a billiards bar a block away).
But, since this was an event about beer and we were at a brewery, there was beer. Lots of beer. Biscayne had theirs on tap, which was nice. First up was Double Nine IPA, named for the most valuable chip in dominoes (practically a sport in Miami). It’s an English IPA and at 9.6 ABV, pretty noticeable in its hop forward flavors. A little mellow compared to some crazy hop beers that other area brewers love to make, but still very much a strong IPA that I can imagine will have a sizeable following in the future.
1513 was the year the Spanish discovered the South Florida area (much to the chagrin of the native Tequesta tribe). As a celebration of this and FLorida History, Biscayne Bay Brewing’s Helles Lager was named 1513 MDXIII Golden Ale. It’s a fantastically light (4.3 ABV) beer, crisp, not too destructively hoppy or malty. It’s a clean, not bitter beer that goes down quite easily. Biscayne Bay’s website describes it as a great beer for entering craft beer, and they definitely have that right.
It’s also worth noting Biscayne Bay’s co-founder Jose Mallea almost incredible love for history, both local and national. The brewery floor is flanked by flags from different periods in history, and he can give you the complete rundown of every single one of them. It’s incredible to talk to him.
The last beer they had on tap tonight was La Colada Coffee Porter. It’s interesting to note they used Cuban-style coffee in brewing this beer, and there is a notable difference in the beer. It’s stronger, but more mellow and less harsh than other coffee porters I’ve had. It’s just as smooth and flavorful, though.
Almost immediately after ordering my fantastic La Colada, I met Raymond Rigazio from The Abbey. Raymond is a great guy to talk to and a wonderful fountain of knowledge about the history of beer in Miami after moving to Miami Beach and opening The Abbey in 1995. I told him he needs to write a book on the history of beer in the area. Seriously. I can always help…
He brought several growlers of Father Theodore’s Imperial Oatmeal Stout with him. Man, that’s a great beer. It’s really big, bold, rich, smooth, and heavy. Definitely not for anyone used to drinking light ales. If you want that big bold flavor, Father Theodore is quite a nice man.
After him, I went to talk to Dustin and Chris at Saltwater. Actually, Saltwater had a number of representatives at the event, which was a nice touch. It’s amazing, I’ve spoken to at least half of the main staff at Saltwater, and they are easily the nicest group of guys you will ever meet. Incredibly generous, especially with their Puffer Pumpkin Stout, which is creamy and nicely touched with a pumpkin taste which isn’t too terribly overpowering. Chris mentioned that pretty much everyone that makes a pumpkin beer makes it an amber or brown ale. Very few of them are porters or stouts. And the Puffer is a great argument why more pumpkin stouts need to be made.
The irony of the situation is we were discussing where Pete Schnebly from Miami Brewing Co. was. As if he heard me, in came Pete with a cooler full of bottles of Jack O’Spades pumpkin ale, Miami Brewing’s first pumpkin beer.
It’s pretty light, definitely brewed with pumpkin rather than just the pumpkin spices. It’s got a great, almost pumpkin color, but it’s very light and crisp. It’s a shame they’re only selling the 750 ml bottles in their tasting room. More distribution next year, please!
Finally, a quick jaunt over to see what J Wakefield. Jonathan and Matt (from Funky Buddha and Sud Swap fame, now brewing with J Wakefield) were hanging out with a few mini-kegs full of some awesome stuff. Jonathan was pretty much a celebrity at the event, and had quite a few people constantly coming up to say hi and beg, plead, and cajole him into opening his Wynwood brewery as soon as possible. All I wanted was to take a keg of the Coconut Vanilla Porter home. That beer was as close to a vanilla milkshake as a beer can really go, brewed with whole vanilla beans (not a syrup, as the flavors might suggest).
The panel was pretty fantastic. The event was moderated by Evan Benn, the food editor of the Miami Herald. There was a pretty good range of topics discussed, from background in beer and how they got involved in the craft beer industry to current legislation issues in Florida beer, taking on the corporate beer giants, and where they wanted to take themselves and their businesses in the future. It was a remarkably positive talk and really gave the impression of a bright future for Florida beer.
Naturally, Steve Hindy’s book was available for both sale and autographs (with Steve using this remarkably fun multi-colored crayon thing for signing). It’s interesting and a little humbling to see the brewmasters that were just on stage with him waiting in line for an autograph. But Steve is pretty cool and very approachable. Being a blogger myself, we were able to talk about the internet and social media’s incredible power and influence in supporting and growing craft beer. Heck, I’ve gotten readers from places like Bahrain. Who knew Florida beer would be so interesting to the world? (I’m not complaining. On the contrary, it’s nice for everyone to see what we’re doing).
It was a fantastic evening and a great event, one that I wish could have been repeated in other Florida cities like Tampa and Jacksonville. Then again, maybe Florida breweries can take it upon themselves to do an event like this just for us?
That being said,the best thing about Florida beer has to be it’s people. It’s mind-blowing how welcoming, enthusiastic, and positive Raymond, Justin, Jose, Jonathan, and Pete were when talking about their beers and the state of the Florida craft industry. Thank you, gentlemen, for your hospitality and everything you’ve done for the state.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read and some beers to drink. Cheers!
Drink Florida Craft,