In 2014, Wynwood Brewing Company became Miami's first brewery to pour at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). That year, the brewery won a gold medal for one of its brews, Pop's Porter, setting a precedent for the local craft beer industry.
The three-day festival runs from October 6 through 8 and showcases hundreds of craft breweries from across America at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver.
Last year's GABF marked the strongest showing for Miami breweries, with a total of five, but this year's festival includes only four — Wynwood Brewing, J. Wakefield Brewing, M.I.A. Beer Company, and one newcomer, the Tank Brewing Company.
By no means is this any sign of decline. In fact, the number of craft production breweries in the county is set to double in the coming years. At least six other production breweries plan to open within the next two years.
The Tank's Matthew Weintraub says his brewery will take two "slim" kegs each of La Finca Miami saison, Freedom Tower amber ale, El Farito IPA, and Byronic brown ale to the festival.
For Weintraub, it's a chance to represent the newest contingent of Miami brewers at the GABF.
"We are thrilled we could be a part of an event like GABF," Weintraub says. "The event allows us to pour beer next to some of the best breweries in America. We will be able to get our liquid out to our prime audience."
M.I.A. Beer Company will take along five beers: Babalu Berliner weisse, Mega Mix American pale ale, Miami Weiss Hefeweizen, Tourist Trappe Belgian tripel-style ale, and Double Deco double IPA.
J. Wakefield Brewing will bring five beers: Stay Puft Smoked Mallow Porter, Cafe milk stout brewed with Mostra coffee, dragon fruit and passionfruit Berliner weisse (commonly referred to as DFPF), Miami Madness Berliner weisse, and Haterade Stush Berliner weisse. They'll be pouring at booth #M27.
Instead of taking slim kegs, Wynwood Brewing will tote a half-barrel for each of its four brands — Pop's Porter, La Rubia blonde ale, Wynwood IPA, Magic City pale ale, and one additional beer.
When it comes to hauling full beer kegs to a festival several thousand miles away, it might seem expensive given the weight, but Wynwood Brewing co-owner Luis Brignoni Jr. says the Brewers Association (the craft beer nonprofit that organizes the GABF each year) makes it easy for brewers.
According to Brignoni, the Brewers Association designates a drop-off point for kegs from all breweries going to the GABF, which is at Cigar City Brewing. The only thing breweries need to do, Brignoni says, is figure out how to get their beer to the drop-off point. The BA takes care of the shipping, Brignoni says.
The reason Wynwood is bringing half-barrels instead of slim kegs is because it was selected for a meet-the-brewer" booth. This special designation comes with perks, including a larger space decorated with the brewery's brand name, logo, and theme. It's the type of booth that generally attracts a higher turnout. Brignoni says his brewery was selected via lottery.
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Because the Zika virus was discovered in Wynwood, commercial activity at art galleries, bars, and restaurants in Miami's trendiest neighborhood has dropped significantly. However, Brignoni thinks the district is rebounding.
"Wynwood is open for business," Brignoni says. "Things are getting back to normal. Little by little, things are getter better."
In the meantime, it's business as usual. At the festival, however, Brignoni hopes his brewery makes as much of an impression as it did in 2014.
"Every year is exciting," he says. "Hopefully, we'll bring home some medals this year."