Johnathan Wakefield, Brewing Up a Storm

Nine years ago on Christmas, Johnathan Wakefield's wife presented him with a Mr. Beer kit — the same one-gallon, $50 contraption that has sent thousands of American men into their garages to play brewmaster. Even with his first batch, Wakefield, an accountant who'd tinkered in culinary classes, experimented with tropical flavors.

"People tell me, 'You're the buffest beer brewer I know!' "

That first mango IPA "was horrible," he laughs now. "More like a mango slushie."

Things have improved considerably since then — so much so that Wakefield quit work at his family's North Miami marina, TNT Custom Marine, this summer and interned at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. Now, the 35-year-old FIU alum and father of three has traded in Excel spreadsheets for a 15-barrel brewing system that produces about 465 gallons per batch. He will open J. Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood in March. The brewery, located half a block from Panther Coffee and two doors down from Gramps, will feature a speakeasy-style tasting room and an outdoor beer garden, plus kegs for bars and restaurants.

Wakefield's five flagship beers are Master Blaster porter, made with smoked coconut; El Jefe, a hefe­weizen; CTC Brown Ale, inspired by Cinnamon Toast Crunch; Hops in Session IPA; and a Florida Weisse — like a light Berliner Weisse, but with fruit added to the beer instead of to the glass.

"When I throw coconut in a hefeweizen," Wakefield explains, "it's almost like a piña colada. Only 4 percent alcohol and perfect for the hot Miami weather." He also makes a mean pumpkin ale and experiments with Latin ingredients like dulce de leche and coffee.

With the recently opened Wynwood Brewing, M.I.A. Brewing, and the forthcoming Concrete Beach (from guys affiliated with Sam Adams and Magic Hat), Miami will have four serious craft breweries in 2014. It's not just a passing trend, Wakefield says. Now that Americans have learned to appreciate good beer, they'll never go back to Budweiser. He hopes all the businesses will embrace one another and "get Florida on the map as a great beer state."

"We are only at the beginning."

So far, Wakefield says, he's managed to avoid hazards of the job — hangovers and a beer belly. He typically drinks just a beer or two, and he's actually lost 15 pounds from hauling around sacks of grain and spending days over a 180-degree mash tun.

He laughs: "People tell me, 'You're the buffest beer brewer I know!'"

 
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5 comments
gcotner
gcotner

I would guess John is getting the attention because he has beers ranked top 10 in the world on beer rating websites. He's a great guy and there is already a huge following for his beer. Miami is in dire need of craft beer options and it's great to see there are other great brewers opening places of their own. Instead of ill will and jealousy among the brewers and their patrons I hope they develop a brotherhood with each other. Miami is already a great city. I hope it is on the verge of becoming a great city for beer.

NataschaOS
NataschaOS

Actually I would have loved to see the Wynwood Brewing Co Team in your pages if you were going to showcase a local brewer for 2013.  

In 2013 they already opened the first  production microbrewery in the city of Miami at 565 NW 24th Street 2) have been home brewers for the past 10 years 3) are FIU alum 4) have made a commitment to the area by commisioning local artists like Krave, Eva Ruiz, Ernesto Kunde, and Trek to do murals on their walls and  like so many Wynwood establishments 4) a family businesss - don't you think it would have been more appropriate for Luis Brignoni and his team to be the brewer selected for 2013? Just sayin

walterwhite684
walterwhite684

@NataschaOS I don't know how great that brewery is if they gotta shill all over articles about someone else's.

bbiniek13
bbiniek13

@NataschaOS  I guess the difference is that J. Wakefield Brewing is already got a huge following around the country just from his home brews. When you can do that, you deserve to get top billing. I do hope that Wynwood Brewing can thrive as well in the growing beer market.

 
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