In the 1920’s, Vero Beach was experiencing a growth spurt. The Florida East Coast Railway had arrived a few decades earlier, and the town was officially chartered in 1919.
By 1925, the city had become the county seat of the new Indian River County and clearly needed more power to sustain growth. To that end, a diesel power plant was built in a large red brick building right next to the railroad. Located inside were massive diesel engines, the newest of which was a 750-kilowatt hour engine built in 1937.
The power plant remained in operation until 1958, at which time it was relegated to being a backup for the city’s newest power plant. That ended in 1994, at which time the building remained vacant. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1999.
A few years ago, Vero Beach sold the building to chiropractor-turned-developer Michael Rechter for $500,000. After a few million in renovations, Rechter opened the building as American Icon Brewery, a massive brewpub in the heart of Downtown Vero Beach and a few miles away from the award-winning Walking Tree Brewing.
The interior of the building has been kept pretty honest. The exposed brick was kept exposed, and there’s a lot of unfinished wood and metalwork on both the ground floor and the upstairs seating overlooking the brewing floor. The 1937 diesel engine is still there, lovingly restored and outfitted with the rather large row of taps for the bar.
The food isn’t bad, a little bit pricey but quite tasty. I enjoyed the meat-laden pizza I got, and we found the beer cheese soup to be nice, especially if you are a big fan of garlic.
Beer-wise, they have 7 core beers and six of them are available in a pre-set flight that comes with snazzy descriptions of the beers, but without any more pertinent information to bloggers like myself (don’t worry, the actual menu has those notes). The only core beer that does not exist on the flight is the milk stout, but I was easily able to switch it with their IPA. With that substitution in mind, here are their core beers:
Diesel Plant Pale Ale (Pale Ale, 5.6% ABV, 42 IBU) – Golden color with a earthy hop nose, bringing in a big Alpha blast of hops from Mosaic, Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade hops. There’s also an interesting caramel undertone that is faintly noticeable.
The Factory (Pilsner, 5.2% ABV, 32 IBU) – Citrus nose with a deep, biscuity malt aroma. The taste is a bit hoppy with a mostly earthy quality, courtesy of Czech Saaz hops.
1926 Hef (Hefeweizen, 5.2% ABV, 16 IBU) – Named for the year the power plant in Vero Beach opend, this classic Hefeweizen has a traditional nose of banana and clove. With the flavor, the clove is more pronounced than the banana, resulting in a slightly less sweet beer than your average Hef.
AmerIcon Blonde (Blonde Ale, 5% ABV, 21 IBU) – This was clearly meant to be the beer that American Icon gives to people brand new to craft beer. It has a strong floral character from Cascade and Centennial hops centered on a very light malt backbone.
Freedom Torch Milk Stout (Stout, 6% ABV, 40 IBU) – The milk stout has a bold roasted aroma with strong notes of coffee. There’s definitely a lot of those coffee notes in the flavor as well, with a light smoothness on the body as well.
Brave World (Belgian Wit, 5% ABV, 12 IBU) – It has a great effervescent nose and traditional straw-colored color, and the slight citrus flavor getting on well with a coriander kick.
This is a small selection of everything that American Icon has to offer on tap. It looks like they have a small barrel aging program, and the production floor has plenty of space for a lot more fermentation tanks.
They’re going to need that, as American Icon is going to be opening up a tap room in Fort Lauderdale later this year, and all of the beer served there will be produced in Vero Beach.
If you’re looking for a good set of beers and a nice meal in a fun historical venue, American Icon is a great place to be.
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