I’ve been going to Wynwood’s Concrete Beach Brewing since before it opened. In that end, they have grown their facilities, their beer offerings, their distribution, and their staff. It was one of those staff members, head brewer Eric Hernandez, that I went to visit and chat with recently about LA, Cuban cuisine, and Miami traffic.
What is your brewing experience with Alchemy and Science (Parent company of Concrete Beach)?
I have been with A&S for five years. I started at Angel City when they were only shipping out 5 kegs a week. Around 2013 we purchased the brand of Coney island Brewery in New York City, but there was really nothing behind it. It was a brand that was spread out a little too far, it didn’t really have any growth plan, so we bought it from Jeremy at Schmaltz. He wasn’t doing anything with the brand and offered it to Alen Newman (founder of A&S).
We took it and I was brought from LA to New York to build the brewery. It was a little 10 bbl brewery, and I was there for 2 1/2-3 years and then I came down here to Miami
What did you do before brewing?
I worked in dairy manufacturing, big dairy production. That’s where I learned the nitty gritty of machinery and food processing. Ever since then it’s been one city after another.
How difficult is it going from LA to Brooklyn to Miami? Each city has a definitive culture and residents that are fiercely protective of that culture.
LA is home, so I knew everything about LA. New York was just kind of like a continuation. I felt like it was that feeling of everybody’s doing their thing together. Miami was a little different. I was used to the availability of public transit, and it was a little bit of a rougher transition to come down here and deal with the weird traffic and the weird rules and everything that’s here, but then I took a few months and got back on track. I like it down here. It’s different living in a tourist area.
Has there been anything that you have discovered down here that has been good for you in terms of creating recipes?
My family is actually Cuban and my uncle actually lives in Port St. Lucie. It’s just the culture, just like the foods. And I’ve enjoyed the food here and there is a lot of it. The good thing about Hispanic foods is there’s a lot of ingredients that you actually brew with. A lot of other foods are too spicy or too umami-flavor forward so you can’t really like do anything with them in terms of brewing.
Usually Latin recipes tend to be a little bit on the sweeter side. We have a Mango Biche Gose, and mango biche is a Colombian snack. It’s actually tart mangoes and they take them before they get yellow and chop them up with lime juice salt on, that’s like a daytime snack. That’s what we did with the Manco Gose.
What else do you like about brewing in Miami?
The beer scene is still relatively new and the beer palate of the customer, there’s a fair chance in Miami that you can tell someone this is a doppelbock and they don’t know what that is. In the other two cities and the other two cities, that’s not the case.
What difficulties do you see about brewing in Miami?
Miami is always has been and probably still dominated by cocktails, cocktail culture. It’s a hard thing too trying to change some minds. What we’re trying to do here, instead of saying we only have beer, is give it a shot, you know? And then people usually they like it. We rarely had someone who didn’t find any beer that they didn’t like and then not come back. They’ll be like ‘I don’t like beer.’ Well, can you try to Rose? ‘Yeah, I like this.’
We’re trying to balance our thing where we have a lot of other things going on so people can try more. We had a Marzen, it sold out on draft like that.
Which is more difficult, making a one-off that people like, or something that you can find everywhere, like a Vienna Lager?
I think the hardest thing that is making your Vienna Lager standout. And that’s the harder thing because anybody can throw juice into a beer, anybody can just keep throwing hops and it will be an IPA. When I go into a brewery, the first thing I try is whatever they have that is a traditional style, and I’ll see how they hit that traditional style. Usually it’s their core. But lagers, pilsners don’t give you leeway for misses. If you have diacetyl, that’s gonna show. If you have off flavors, that’s gonna show.
You’re now the third head brewer at Concrete Beach. How difficult is it to make sure the core beers brewed here are on point?
We have a lot of indicators we call process indicators at every part of the brew. As long as those are hitting the right points, the ABVs, the IBUs, the SRMs, We look at those sensory panels and we’re always looking for the same thing every time. But if we feel like it’s something needs to be changed, if we realize that there’s a way to improve it, we do it very slowly. It’s a process, it takes a couple months and it takes a lot of brewing to do. So with brewing, you won’t know for 20 days if the change you made is worth it or not. But at the same time before that, there’s another brew that needs to be made to go out for distributed.
What do you see as going to be the next big beer trend?
With beer, everybody says there’s always the next thing is going to be like, oh, sours, then sours taper off. Then Belgians and Belgians taper off. But it’s probably going to be a revert back to kind of classics. That’s exactly what I’ve started to see a few different people do. They can have a few at once and not get overwhelmed.
Drink Florida Craft,