If you’re reading this blog, odds are you know who Jonathan Wakefield is. If not, just wait a bit and you’ll be able to find J. Wakefield Brewing beers throughout the state.
So we asked the man himself some questions about fruit, Zika, and Star Wars.
When did you first discover craft beer?
Like everyone, I drank cheap beer in college. I played football at Robert Morris
outside of Pittsburgh, so it was Iron City, Rolling Rock, or whatever else was
cheap and readily available! Then after college, I discovered craft beer and my
perception of what beer could be changed.
What was the beer that really opened your eyes to brewing?
I read about Firestone Walker Pale 3 in a national magazine and ordered it
online. When it arrived and I tasted it, it was a eureka moment. I couldn’t believe
that a beer could deliver so much flavor. It really opened my palate and my eyes.
I started to really get into trying different craft beers from around the country and
learning the different styles. I would often order them online, if they weren’t
available in Miami.
When did you start brewing?
On Christmas Day of 2005, my wife, Natalie, gave me a $50 Mr. Beer beer
making kit. I already had an interest in cooking and had taken a few culinary
classes, so having developed such a love of craft beer, it was the perfect gift.
After brewing my first batch, I was hooked and I quickly upgraded to a better
system. It was incredibly gratifying to create something that I could share with
family and friends.
What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?
Easily Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Florida Weisse Sour Ale (DFPF). As my home
brewing began to evolve, I experimented with local fruits and other ingredients.
The combination of these two fruits really worked. Joey Redner from Cigar City, happened to be at a party at my house, after a University of Miami/Florida State
football game and tasted my home-brewed version of what would become DFPF. He asked me to come up to Tampa and brew it on one of their pilot systems for
their first Hunahpu’s Day. We’ve been serving at that event since.
One focus of yours is definitely sours. How did you decide to place an
emphasis on these styles?
It just kind of evolved that way after DFPF was so well received. I guess that fact
that sours drink so well in a tropical climate, like Miami’s, played a role.
How did you come about finding your brewing space?
It was pretty obvious that Wynwood was the right place to be, the artisan food
movement was already taking hold and the neighborhood was already a
destination for like-minded people, not the vodka and Red Bull crowd from South
Beach. Plus, the zoning was right! We crowd-funded our brewery and were really
fortunate to have tremendous support from the very start.
How do you get inspiration in developing recipes and names for your
I’ve taken cooking classes and am super passionate about food. I’m always
experimenting with flavors. Sometimes I taste something great and think to
myself, Could that be replicated in a beer? If so, what style and ingredients?
Most of the time, It can’t, but when it does, it’s pretty cool. The names come from
popular culture. I’m a big comic book and sci-fi geek at heart, so those often
influence the names.
Since so many of your beers have cultural references, what comes first: the
beer’s name or the style? How do you combine the two?
The beer always comes first. Sometimes they visually name themselves, other
times it takes a bit of thought.
There are some breweries, though not a ton in FL, that are named for the
owners/brewers. Why did you decide to not go with something more
Because I already had a small following as a home brewer and wanted people to
know that the brewery was an evolution of that. Also, I take a tremendous
amount of pride in brewing beer the right way. I know it sounds like a corny
commercial, but it really does make a difference when you are putting your name,
and often in the labels, your likeness on it.
Were you and your fellow 24th St. brewers affected deeply with the recent
Zika scare? How have you communicated about that with your loyal
Sure. It was a really rough summer for Wynwood last year. Our customers are a
pretty hearty bunch, so they continued to come to the brewery. There wasn’t
much to communicate beyond what the city and country were saying. I think
everyone will be better prepared this summer.
You tend to do a lot of collaborations with major national and international
brewers. How do those usually come about? Do you have plans for more
Just friends that I have made over the years at shows or festivals. It’s a tight knit
community and if I really love the beer that a brewer makes, it’s only natural to
want to collaborate. It’s like if you play guitar and your hear another guitarist that
you admire, you automatically want to jam with them. I’m currently working on
some Florida-based collaborations. We’ll let you know when they are finalized.
There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for this people?
If you are in it for the money, you won’t be in it for long. If you are truly passionate
about making great beer, welcome and let me know if I can help!
What’s coming up next for J. Wakefield?
A new bottling line in April. Increased capacity from an agreement with Brew
Hub, statewide distribution and hopefully at some point soon, a second location.
Since you’re a notable Star Wars fan, who was the better captain: Kirk or
Han Solo for the win!
Drink Florida Craft,
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