In a laboratory deep in the heart of suburban Miami, an overactive kettle explodes, spewing steamy, frothy wort. Just another day in the adventures at CerveTech Brew Institute, where brewing experts hone their craft in the art of making fine beer.
If CerveTech is a brewing laboratory, Nick Armada is its mad scientist. Located near the Palmetto Expressway's Bird Road exit, a little way down SW 74th Court, Armada rents a small warehouse where, for a moderate monthly fee, members learn how to master the art of brewing.
It's not simply a homebrew club. CerveTech is a cooperative of brewing enthusiasts and anyone needing space to learn to concoct a many strange brew. Whether a novice or master brewer, you can learn to make
Miami-style beer at Armada's shop.
"The idea behind the warehouse is this: I needed a place to perfect my
beer, I needed a place to work on my recipes, and I didn't want to do it
in my back yard, where there are too many variables," Armada explains.
There are three levels of membership. A $25 basic monthly fee provides use of all homebrewing equipment but no materials. A fee of $50 includes equipment plus enough materials to brew five gallons of take-home brew. And $100 buys equipment access plus materials to make three five-gallon batches.
The $50-per-month membership brings more beer than Bud Light for the same price, Armada says.
"I want to one day have a brewery, but right now I don't have the
finances," he says. "And living in South Florida, it's not like in
California or Colorado or even North Carolina, where I can knock on the
door of the nearest brewery and ask for an internship. Here I don't have
Real estate appraiser by day, the 32-year-old Armada realized that brewing at home would be impractical because of the space necessary to store equipment and the potential volatility of making the beer.
Since opening last September, Armada has persuaded his friends to join and now has at least 25 members.
The warehouse is being outfitted with a bar made from charcoal-stained birch wood and a brushed-aluminum counter, a loft, and a shower to wash off brewing mishaps, but otherwise the lab is fully functional. Several kettles, fermenting jars, valves, and sundry home-brew equipment adorn a work bench. Armada is incorporating a 55-gallon drum into the lab to maximize output. The floor is epoxied to prevent beer becoming trapped in the porous concrete.
A freezer retrofitted with a thermostat is filled with several barrels and jars of fermenting wort, or the boiled, sugary, frothy liquid that turns into beer. Two kegerators hold 15 kegs -- more than 55 gallons -- of finely crafted local beer waiting to be tapped for this weekend's Brew at the Zoo.
CerveTech will also donate a keg each of pink dragonfruit pale ale and pineapple Kolsch to benefit the Baptist Breast Cancer Foundation event at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne on May 12.
At CerveTech, members hang out, brew beer, and share inventions. One member crafted a uniquely flavored beer that
Miami would be proud to call its own: a flan porter. "This is more of a
social thing," Armada says. "Drinking beer is a social thing.
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"What we're doing here is art in brewing. We get ingredients here that no one else can get. We could be a great beer city, although we are a few years behind. I really believe that CerveTech is helping to push it along."
Interested in becoming a member? Talk to Nick Armada at the CerveTech tent this Saturday at New Times' Brew at the Zoo.