J. Wakefield, Wynwood Brewing, and Veza Sur Brew Beer for Miami Palates
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J.Wakefield Brewing makes beers for Miami’s palates.
Photo courtesy J. Wakefield Brewing
Miami is fast becoming a mecca for craft beer lovers. In a city that literally had no breweries before 2013, there are now dozens of fresh liquor manufacturers. With breweries popping up from Hialeah to Kendall to North Miami, Wynwood remains Miami’s best-known brewery district. And three of them make beers that suit the taste buds – and the climate – of Miami.
Traditional stouts, IPAs and lagers just don’t fit in a city that is always warm and moves to its own beat. These Miami brewers headed out to find out what works in the Magic City.
Johnathan Wakefield and his team at J. Wakefield Brewing (120 NW 24th St.) took up the challenge.
“Miami is a light beer city – think of lagers like Corona and Presidente,” says Wakefield, who brewed his El Jefe especially for Miami. “I designed it seven years ago as a Miami beer. With the banana nests from the yeast and the coconut, I think it captured the essence of our tropical climate.”
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Wakefield also brews the beer style he is best known for: the Florida Weisse.
A riff on a German white, these tart beers are usually flavored with natural tropical fruits from the region. Wakefield says its fruity sours are as close to a local beer as possible.
“Florida has a limited hop crop and they don’t grow very productively,” he explains. “You can get some local yeast, but the only local ingredients are water and fruit.”
Wakefield’s Florida Weisse beers are also great entry-level beers for people who are used to sipping drinks by the pool. “They’re very cocktailesque,” says the brewer.
They’re also perfect for Miami’s warm climate.
The whites are low in alcohol and filled with juicy mangos, guavas and passion fruits. “These are popular fruits down here – especially the mango,” says Wakefield. “Miami is mangoes. I have no idea why Florida is known as the orange state.”
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Wynwood Brewing’s Delusion Ale
Photo courtesy of Wynwood Brewing Co.
Wynwood Brewing Company (565 NW 24th St.) won awards for its rich, chocolaty Pop’s Porter. But partner Luis Brignoni says Miami has lighter, tropical beers. “As much as we like our darker, malty beers, they just don’t sell,” he says.
Brignoni kept Pop’s porter but upgraded a few other beers – including the Laces IPA, based on customer feedback. “The original IPA had a heavier body. We went for something that had a slightly lower alcohol content and had more tropical notes instead of pine, ”said the brewer. The new recipe turned out to be a hit. 177 stores currently carry the IPA. “It’s close to La Rubia on sale,” says Brignoni, referring to the brewery’s blonde core beer.
Recently, the brewery partnered with artist Ron English to create an even lighter, more Miami-friendly IPA. The cloudy IPA is brewed backwards – with the lemon and citra hops added at the end of the brewing process. Then fresh lemon puree was added as a tribute to the artist who, according to Brignoni, eats a lemon a day. “The addition of hops in the later part of the cooking process gives less bitterness,” explains the brewer.
The beer – Delusion Ale – drinks like a fresh shandy to be enjoyed under a palm tree. “It speaks to the artist and it speaks to Miami,” says Brignoni.
Brignoni says more artist-inspired beers are in the works, including an IPA milkshake with guava, mamey, and mango. “It’s going to be like a batido you’d get at your favorite Cuban restaurant,” he says, adding that it’s an opportunity for his team to brew the beers they want to make – and that Miami wants to drink.
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Link Surs South Coast IPA.
Photo courtesy of Veza Sur
Over at Veza Sur Brewing Co. (55 NW 25th St.), Co-Founder Marshall Hendrickson Miamians wants to introduce his South Coast IPA to Miamians. Tech-wise, South Coast isn’t true IPA style, but that doesn’t stop Hendrickson, who says that ten years ago, IPAs didn’t look at all what they do today. “Since then, so many new, low-alcohol, low-bitterness styles have emerged, including Brut and Hazy – or New England.”
The Veza Sur brewers set out to make an IPA that would satisfy the Miami palate. “Initially, when we opened, we started with an IPA session. People liked the low bitterness, but where we missed the mark, the ABV was too low.” The ABV was increased to 7.5 percent – and the South Coast IPA was born.
The beer drinks almost like a summer ale, with a touch of malt to balance the citra and amarillo hops.
“It has refreshing pineapple and mango notes, but that lingering bitterness isn’t there,” says Hendrickson.
Hendrickson hopes this style of IPA will resonate with brewers so that the south coast will eventually be recognized by the Brewers Association, which currently lists dozens of styles of IPA. “If breweries are slow to produce this style of IPA, we can knock on the door and say this is a trend,” he says. “I’m sure fuzzy IPAs started with a brewery or two.”
Hendrickson says that if New England IPAs and West Coast IPAs start organically and can be recognized as a legitimate style, South Coast can do the same. “It really has to start with breweries producing similar styles organically.”
After a year in which breweries were forced to close due to the pandemic and many people felt isolated, a brewery room seems like the ideal place to get back into society.
“Breweries are places where locals can meet. It’s not a night club. It’s relaxed and much more conducive to community building, ”says Hendrickson.
Johnathan Wakefield agrees that breweries are a real hangout for Miamians – even if they’re not devout beer drinkers. “We’ll never be a Boston or a New York where people pound their beer, but we still have a lot of people in Miami who are fans.”