Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery has a new home.
Brewmaster and co-owner Ismael Fernandez has relocated the brewery to 13416 NW 38th Ct. in Opa-locka. Fernandez tells New Times Legacy should be open to the public in as little as a few weeks from now, although most likely the brewery will be open in the coming months.
Currently, Legacy is allowed to brew and distribute but isn't allowed consumption of its beer on premises. Fernandez says he's waiting on the city to change an ordinance so that he can have a tasting room.
Fernandez, his wife Sonya, and his brother Hector originally opened Legacy in 2013 at 1951 NW 141 St., Opa-locka. They were open for two years on a provisional permit from the city, but it wasn't without problems.
"When we first decided to open, we were made to feel great," Fernandez says. "We even did a couple of city events to help the arts and kid programs in the city until we pushed for our permits to be finalized to allow us to go into distribution and that is when we got the reality check from City Hall."
New Times reached former Opa-locka city manager David Chiverton multiple times back in March to find out why. "I have nothing to say," Chiverton said, before hanging up.
It turns out that Chiverton was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly shaking down local businesses for bribes. Chiverton resigned in August and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal court on Monday.
As frustrated as he was, Fernandez wanted to move but couldn't because he was locked into a three-year building contract. All he could do was wait it out while he looked for another place and waited for the investigation to finish.
It's not the first time Fernandez' family has dealt with power-hungry politicians. He was born in the Bronx and moved to Santiago, Dominican Republic, with his mother at two years old. At the time, president and de facto dictator Rafael Trujillo was in power.
Fernandez learned how to brew as a teenager with his grandfather, who owned a brewery at the time and brewed only one kind of beer. He recalls the stories his grandfather told him of how Trujillo demanded different styles only for himself and began experimenting with the malt. He was able to brew three more kinds of beer — a pilsner, red ale, and a porter — without subtracting or adding ingredients.
Years later, Fernandez and his family moved to the Northside District of Miami.
When looking for another location, Fernandez wanted the brewery to be in Hallandale or Hollywood but cited "crazy" restrictions in the two cities. He tried Miami Gardens and Hialeah to no avail. "South Florida is a maze of laws and regulations, and no one in the city understands it or is willing to give it a chance if you aren't well funded," Fernandez says. "We aren't Rockefeller or even close."
In the end, Fernandez opted to keep Legacy in Opa-locka. The brewery is located across the street from the Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport and a mile from St. Thomas and Florida Memorial universities. The brewery is named after his grandfather, who left a craft brewing legacy with his grandsons.
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The brewing facility is 1,600 square feet and houses a two-barrel brewing system. Fernandez considers it a nanobrewery that's "a lot better" than what he had. He's hoping to be open to the public before Grovetoberfest on October 15.
Before Legacy opens, Fernandez and crew are planning a couple of small events, such as a bottle share with SFLHops, a blessing night with Sud Swap, and a small tasting with the brewery's Facebook and Instagram followers.
It was a hard-won battle for Legacy. If anything, Fernandez says opening Legacy ought to serve as a lesson for anyone seeking to start a brewery in Miami. "You really have to have hard skin because you are going to get told 'no' a lot," he said, "and your wallet's going to be empty."