Ask Gustavo Fernandez what he used to do in his home country of Colombia before moving to Miami 18 years ago, and he'll tell you he came from the construction industry. "I worked with my hands," he says.
But seven years ago, Fernandez began learning how to make beer at Cervecería Edelweiss, a brewpub in Cajicá. And through connections with Miami's beer industry, he linked up with CerveTech's Nick Armada and Daddy Brews' Jacob Lindsay to start Krome Acres, a meadery based in the Redland, at 17480 SW 232nd St.
Mead, otherwise known by the ancient Greeks as ambrosia, or drink of the gods, is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey instead of the malt that goes into beer. Though the process is relatively less involved than making beer, it can take longer. And unlike beer, no mashing is required. "Set it and forget it" is the usual mantra when it comes to making mead, Armada says, taking up to about a year for a single batch to be ready.
However, Armada says the process can be expedited to produce a "mead on 'roids" in 30 to 90 days by adding nutrients at intervals throughout the fermentation process. Krome Acres has been able to make two meads so far. Earlier this month, Fernandez, Armada, and Lindsday bottled their first mead — a hydro melomel, or a low-alcohol fruit variety, made with blackberries and an increased water content.
The Redland meadery is located on a property Fernandez purchased 13 years ago. He calls it a "pueblito paisa" for the small villages that are commonplace throughout the coffee-growing regions of Colombia.
"When you are here, you feel as if you're in Colombia," Fernandez says of the property, which resembles a small ranch. "This place has a story to tell you."
Previously located on Fernandez's plot of land was Gus' Ranch, complete with a churrasco grill and a banquet hall. For years, Fernandez wanted a winery there, but he wasn't allowed.
Then, on October 6, 2015, Miami-Dade County amended an ordinance that dropped the minimum acreage of land needed for a winery from ten to five. This, coupled with a license to make wine, allows Krome Acres to make and sell mead.
According to Lindsay, it was Miami restaurateur Matt Kuscher who introduced him and Armada to Fernandez. After leaving Miami Brewing Company earlier this year, both Lindsay and Armada wanted to launch their own company. The partners are starting off small. Neither of them has vast resources, but they do have a location and some equipment. Armada and Lindsay scrounged up the brewing equipment they've collected over the years and used what they could to produce mead.
Most important, according to Lindsay, Krome Acres has clean water and a steady supply of local honey.
Growth of Krome Acres is as grassroots as you can get, Armada says. In this case, it's providing local restaurants and bars with locally made mead. "Volume is vain. We're not going to be the biggest, because our philosophy isn't volume at this point."
What's even better, Armada adds, is Krome Acres doesn't need a distributor; the mead is sold directly to retailers such as Total Wine. Soon, Armada says, the meadery will supply its product to the Spillover restaurant in Coconut Grove, where mead and cider are par for the course. "Matt is already educating the public about mead at the Spillover," Lindsay says. "He is incredibly successful at what he does."
Many other varieties of Krome Acres mead are in store for Miami. Recently, 600 pounds of mamoncillos — or Spanish limes (which aren't really limes at all) — were recently harvested and will eventually become a mead ingredient, Armada says.
Lindsay says they're planning a fall release for two other mead flavors: shade-grown coffee and banana. Both will be made using local ingredients.
Given all of the tropical fruit growing in South Florida, they'll most likely try to figure out a way to incorporate it into their mead. Other than mead, Fernandez hopes to eventually produce beer and distilled spirits from his location in the Redland. But it's one step at a time.
"I have to do this one little by little," Fernandez says. "We'll take awhile, but we're on the way."