Chris Guest's picture

Wynwood Brewing Company

Miami's first production craft brewery educates South Beach locals on the many merits of local craft beer.
Wynwood Brewing Pop's Porter GABF Beer Connoisseur

Miami – a steamy tropical paradise where swimsuits are small and sun scorches the backs of un-sunscreened tourists – wasn’t showing me much in the way of craft beer. After searching in vain for some Cigar City beers during my first two days on the southern end of sultry Florida, I began to think that a tourist city like Miami might not be a magnet for craft beer enthusiasts.

Most restaurants I visited did not boast voluminous beer menus. When I did find an establishment that had craft beer, I would get excited, only to realize that Blue Moon and Shock Top were their most exotic options.

I suppose this macro-dominated landscape was to be expected in a party-first, discern-tasty-flavors-later atmosphere, but I was still holding out hope. Finally on the third day, to my relief, I found some Cigar City Invasion (Jai Alai was sold out), and I also stumbled upon something I was starting to think was absent in Miami: A cozy local brewery called Wynwood Brewing Company.

With Funky Buddha Brewing Company 45 minutes away and the length of Florida between Cigar City and myself, Wynwood served as a perfect substitute for those two institutions.

As I drove into the Wynwood neighborhood, I couldn’t help but notice all the vibrant, stylish street art that adorned the dilapidated and (almost exclusively empty) buildings.

There seemed to be nothing open in the area as I drove through, but as I turned onto a dusty, sun-drenched side road I saw it. Amidst a cluster of beautiful, colorful street art, the Wynwood Brewing Company logo was painted on the side of the building, almost hidden amidst the innumerable murals covering the brewery’s façade.

As I approached, I was greeted by a closed door with the words “Beer Here” festooned on it. Obviously, this was the entrance.

When I entered, a blast of powerful air conditioning greeted my face and a pungent wave of hops greeted my nostrils.

Wynwood Brewing founder Luis Brignoni greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake… as well as the brewery’s Rickenbacker Czech Pilsner, a refreshing and quenching brew that serves as a perfect foil to the stifling humidity in Miami.

“I’ve been loving the Pilsner,” Luis tells me. “Anything to help with the heat will be a hit.”

Luis leads me to the brewhouse, a 4500-barrel facility complete with rum, whiskey and red wine casks in the back with various brews housed within. He leads me to the cooler, which provides some relief from the roasting heat and shows me numerous multicolored kegs of some of the brewery’s most popular beers, La Rubia Blonde Ale and Pop’s Porter.

Luis started homebrewing in college, after his father (Pop) gave him a Mr. Beer Kit. Two of his best creations were La Rubia and Pop’s Porter.

Luis founded the brewery in August 2011, leaving behind a lucrative sales job. He was travelling all over the country for his job, visiting some of the best breweries he could find along the way.

As he sampled the wares of these breweries nationwide, he began to wonder why there wasn’t a good local brewery in Miami where he could relax when he came home. He did some research, decided that there was a market for a Miami-area craft brewery, and started Wynwood shortly after. Production started in 2013 and the brewery has grown quickly since then, with plans for bottling in the near future.

“We’re aiming for August 22 to start releasing bottles,” Luis told me as we walked past the fledgling bottling line. There were still a few kinks to work out with the system, as a few bottle labels were accidentally turned upside down.

“We have the labels that way so you can see it better when you’re drinking quickly,” Luis jokes.

The bottling will begin with La Rubia and Pop’s Porter, a 2014 GABF gold medalist in the Robust Porter category.

It’s easy to see why Wynwood is so popular in the area. Luis and his staff were uniformly friendly and courteous, and they seemed to know all the regulars by name. While I was there, one woman came in with some out-of-town relatives to show off her local brewery.

Similar to other breweries, Wynwood has a “rewards program” called the Vine Club. Entry costs $195 (and $85 to renew), but the benefits are myriad: a designated (and larger) snifter, various discounts, a loyalty card that nets you free drinks, and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to fill up a growler with any of Wynwood’s delectable brews – a perk that is reserved solely for Vine Club members.

After sampling Wynwood’s wares, I can safely say that last perk is the best, as Wynwood’s beers were unwaveringly excellent.

After finishing my tour and heading to the taproom, I sat underneath the big beer board featuring all of the brewery’s currently tapped beers.

I wasn’t sure where to begin, but with a large cardboard cut-out of Luis’ dad with a GABF gold medal around his neck nearby, I knew Pop’s Porter would be a good place to start… and it was. An incredibly rich, chocolatey flavor embraced my palate and a filling, smooth mouthfeel helped this beautiful porter go down easy.

I followed the porter with a Raspberry Berliner Weisse called Bohemian Rhaspberry. This fruity concoction was another great beer for the sweltering Miami heat, and with 35 pounds of pureed raspberries in each batch, it didn’t skimp on the fruit flavor either. But even at only 3.1% percent ABV, it wasn’t overly sweet but rather quenchingly tart and refreshing.

After the Weisse I sampled La Rubia, one of Wynwood’s best sellers and an interesting Blonde Ale brewed with the ever-effervescent Saaz hop varietal, a German “alt-yeast,” and a British Crystal Malt. An interestingly spicy bouquet assailed my nostrils and a lightly carbonated body made for yet another easy-drinker.

The Wynwood taproom has no TVs, only loudspeakers blasting classic rock. Luis says the lack of distractions allows people to focus on the beer – and each other.

Luis wanted to create a “community hangout where people can come out and chill, or get out of the heat. We are very much part of the Wynwood community.”

With beer this tasty and interesting, I definitely agree. Surrounded by story-high murals and heat haze on the roads, Wynwood is a beer oasis in the middle of an area devoid of craft beer hotspots, though Luis says that’s changing.

“We were the first, but now there’s a few more. Concrete Beach Brewery is nearby, and J. Wakefield Brewing just opened up too. Hopefully more will start cropping up as people learn to enjoy their beer a little bit more in the area,” Luis said.

The Wynwood taproom is open 7 days a week, from 12-10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and 12 p.m. to midnight Tuesday thru Saturday.

Comments

Don Pablo's picture
Wynwood Brewing Company has the best "malty" IPA in Miami, and yes I've had them all ;-)

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Comments

Don Pablo's picture
Wynwood Brewing Company has the best "malty" IPA in Miami, and yes I've had them all ;-)

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