American Icon Brewery Kitchen & Taproom owner Mike Rechter has a clear vision of his brewery's fan base.
He pictures boaters and fishermen enjoying a day on the water, and they're listening to the classic-rock hits that turned American rockers into legends. That's why the brewery, which opened a second location, at 911 NE Fourth Ave. in Fort Lauderdale, is decorated with the likenesses of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.
The brewery quietly opened in the Flagler Village area last spring, which Rechter describes as "the Wynwood of Fort Lauderdale" for its hipness and the growing number of beer-centric spots. The area includes nearby breweries Khoffner, Laser Wolf, and Invasive Species.
American Icon's original location opened in 2017 in Vero Beach, where it occupies a 100-year-old building with a 15-barrel brewing system. The Fort Lauderdale location has a smaller system that's used to brew small-batch beers.
"That's the beauty of a small brewhouse: It gives the brewmaster opportunity to experiment," Rechter says.
The Fort Lauderdale brewmaster is 31-year-old Jesse Robles, who has been with American Icon since the beginning. Originally from New Jersey, Robles earned his beer education at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, which has a tradition of training brewers. He previously brewed at Florida Beer Company and Saratoga Brewing in New York.
Cranking out the same beers at a larger production brewery became mind-numbing for Robles, so he moved on.
"For the most part, I always knew I wasn't going to work at a place like that," says Robles, adding that American Icon allows him to work with the creativity of a homebrewer again. "I don't think anybody becomes a brewer for the money."
Robles' creations include the Florida Heat, a sour ale brewed with Fresno chili peppers and blood oranges; a hazy IPA; and the 1926 Hef, a Hefeweizen. He's experimenting with a barrel-aging program and has even considered wild fermentation, which he says must be tightly controlled to reduce contamination.
In addition to brewing, Robles is in his third year as a judge at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
As the name implies, American Icon in Fort Lauderdale has a full kitchen serving classic American fare. Menu items include baby-back ribs ($18 for a full rack), a Bavarian pretzel with IPA mustard and Pilsner cheese ($10), and a stone-oven-baked pizza that uses the taproom's Angus burger as a topping ($16). Each menu item lists a suggested beer pairing for a complete experience.
The Fort Lauderdale taproom also offers two happy hours. From 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 p.m. till closing time nightly, guests can enjoy half-priced American Icon beers, wines by the glass, premium well drinks, and $8 bites. Since the location's debut, Rechter has been ironing out the kinks and hopes to hold a grand opening sometime this fall.
American Icon Brewery Kitchen & Taproom. 911 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-500-4266; americaniconbrewery.com.
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