There's little doubt that Miami is an attractive place to live. But with the growing craft beer industry, the Magic City is now viable enough for a brewer to earn a living. Or at least so says Marco Reyna of Concrete Beach Brewery in Wynwood.
He formerly brewed with Wicked Weed Brewing Pub in Asheville, North Carolina, for two years, and at Revolution Brewery in Chicago before that. He signed on with Concrete Beach as its lead brewer this past April.
Concrete Beach is part of Alchemy & Science, an independent subsidiary of Boston Beer Company that its owner, Jim Koch, created as an "incubator" for the craft beer industry. Koch hired friend and former beer competitor Alan Newman, who founded Magic Hat Brewing Company in Vermont, to head the new company.
Alchemy & Science bought and revamped Angel City Brewing in Los Angeles in 2012 before starting Concrete Beach.
Reyna didn't attend brewing school but, like many other brewers, began at home in Chicago at 19 years old. He spent a lot of time volunteering in his early 20s at Revolution, which brought him on as an apprentice. He ended up staying for five years. They taught him everything he needed to know.
At Wicked Weed, he was the head pub brewer and made a wide range of styles — from pale ales to experimental "cocktail" beers, or brews inspired by old-fashioned cocktails.
Feeling a bit cooped up in Asheville, he's at the point where he can spread his wings a little. The best part about the Miami beer industry, he says, is its youth. As the industry here grows, Reyna is definitely looking forward to sharing his knowledge.
Reyna spoke with New Times about the Miami beer scene and the bigger picture of craft brewing:
New Times: What kind of beer are you bringing to Miami?
Marco Reyna: As much as I like the experimental fruit ingredients, I'm a purist at heart. I'm always going to have a deep love and always going to want to brew the traditional German style and classic American style. But I am very happy to experiment with some of the local flavors and fruits like that. That's something we're really wanting to do here. I kind of have the best of both worlds here.
How much of a hand does Alan Newman have in day-to-day brewing operations?
Alan definitely is more of the big-picture man. He'll definitely come in and make adjustments in terms of types of beer, but that's kind of where that line is drawn. He isn't the production and the process man. That's where everyone else comes in. If he has an idea he feels real passionate about, we'll come in and figure out a way to make it work. We have a lot of creativity here.
As far as production goes, was it a step up in terms of volume?
In terms of production volume, it's a little different because the operation I was running was a brewpub where everything — 90 to 95 percent of what was brewed — was consumed onsite, whereas here is definitely more of a production brewery. It's kind of a different monster. Currently, the actual physical volume is very similar to what I was used to. Towards the end of the year, we're looking to expand some of our capacity in the cellars. So we're gonna be, hopefully, looking at a lot more volume.
What are your thoughts on the AB-Inbev/SABMiller merger and the fact that AB-Inbev is buying craft breweries?
The craft beer scene overall is evolving and constantly evolving. I'm sure we're not going to see the end of the big breweries buying up little guys here and there. I don't know, I can't really speak to that large scale of what the industry is doing — it's above anything I have control of. It's the nature of the business that things may change. Overall, I think it's all about the liquid.
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Do you think it would be foolish for a craft brewer not to accept an offer from a larger brewing company?
I think every situation is unique and every brewery owner has in their own mind what they want. I really couldn't say what someone should do if approached.
The Miami craft beer community is fiercely protective when it comes to staying local. You're affiliated with Boston Brewing Company. What should purists understand about this relationship?
What is really great about Concrete Beach is that we have a great opportunity to be innovative and create beers that we truly believe in. Our connection with Boston Beer Company is mainly a financial partnership. This gives us access to some pretty great resources that a lot of young, small breweries do not have. At the end of the day, our brewing team at Concrete Beach is dedicated and passionate about putting our blood, sweat, and tears into making the best beer we can possibly produce. I invite everyone to our social hall to come have a look for themselves and share a pint with us!
What do you think about the craft beer bubble? Are there too many breweries in Miami?
I do believe the craft beer bubble is a real thing nationwide, to a certain degree. I do believe that with such a fast-growing industry, there will be some people attracted to it that may or may not fully understand what it is, what it represents, or what it can become. I don't think Miami is even close to the point of having too many breweries. In my eyes, there is a large population of people here that are new to craft beer and there is plenty of room for growth and plenty of people to introduce to better-tasting beer.
What aspects of the craft beer industry would you like to see more of in Miami?
I honestly think that the craft beer industry here is strong. As I get to meet and interact with more of the people involved in the beer community here, I get more and more excited to be here. I can't say there is anything I would want to change or expect to see at this point, as I am still pretty fresh here. I will say that I am happy to be a part of a community that is energized and excited about growing.