Five years ago, when Luis Brignoni opened Wynwood Brewing Company with his father, Luis Sr., Miami didn't really have a craft beer scene. The biggest hurdle to opening the city's first production brewery and taproom was discussing rules for the fledgling industry with city leaders. "A lot of people had a big question mark," the younger Brignoni recalls. "It took a lot of educating on what a brewery was."
Wynwood Brewing has come a long way since then. Its Pops Porter, named after Luis Sr., won a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Two years ago, Craft Brew Alliance, a Portland company, purchased a 24.5 percent share of the brewery so it could expand the production facilities and taproom. Now its beers are featured on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.
Wynwood Brewing's growth is indicative of the entire Miami beer scene. In only a few years, craft beer's popularity has grown exponentially. Overall, 13 breweries have opened in just the past seven years and at least six others are planned. A couple of small breweries that produce beer only to drink on the premises predate the boom — the Abbey Brewing Company in Miami Beach and Titanic Brewing in Coral Gables both opened in 1995 — but overall it has transformed Miami's beer universe.
And it's not just independents. There's Veza Sur, a plant-filled brewery founded by top dogs from Bogota Beer Company and Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
And a few months ago, an affiliate of the Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing purchased property on NE 25th Street in a plan to open a brewery in Wynwood.
Being part of a big corporation can work to a brewery's advantage, says Eric Hernandez, head brewer at Concrete Beach Brewery, which is owned by a division of the Boston Beer Company. "We have access to better ingredients," Hernandez says by phone while on a hops-buying trip to Washington state. In fact, he likely wouldn't be able to afford the trip west without his deep-pocketed owners.
Yet Concrete Beach strives to evoke the vibe of a local establishment. The brewery's taproom, referred to as a social hall, offers community activities such as fun runs, comedy nights, and dog-friendly brunches. "We make everything here, and we control everything we make," Hernandez says. "All of our employees live here, and it's important that we're part of the neighborhood."
In Wynwood, Johnathan Wakefield is the last fully independent brewer — at least for now. His J. Wakefield Brewing derived seed money from a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign that amassed more than $110,000 in 2013. The brewer, who's known for his fruit-forward Florida Weiss beers served in a Star Wars-themed taproom, believes there's still room for small breweries here. "I think, overall, the Miami beer scene has improved massively," he says. "The number of craft beer drinkers and the number of local beers has grown."
But the city has a long way to go, Wakefield adds. "We're on an upward swing," he says, "but everyone in the country is sending beer down here. It's tough for a brewery unless you can sell it out your front door." Wakefield points out that breweries in far-flung parts of Miami-Dade have gained traction. As an example, he cites Lincoln's Beard opening in the Bird Road Arts District just east of the Palmetto Expressway.
When John Falco opened Lincoln's Beard in May 2016, he chose a spot near Westchester instead of competing with more established brewers in Doral and Wynwood. "As millennials get more established, they're moving out west to buy homes and settle down," Falco says, "and they're bringing a demand for a cultural experience." Falco sees Lincoln's Beard as a community hub. "By opening in this neighborhood, I'm in debt to it, so every time I donate a keg to an organization or host a fundraising karaoke night, I'm paying back that debt."
The number of breweries in Miami continues to grow. Tripping Animals' debut in Doral is imminent. The brewery is already making beer and awaiting final paperwork in order to sell to the public. Hialeah will get its first brewery when Unbranded Brewing opens its doors, and South Beach Brewing will bring fresh beer to the area's number one tourist spot. Biscayne Bay Brewing will try to double down on its success by opening a second taproom, in downtown Miami. In the coming months, Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, Sweet Mercy Brewing, and Descarga Brewing will all begin pouring their own brews too, and likely dozens of others are in the nascent planning stages.
Throughout its growth, the local beer community has remained tight-knit, Wynwood Brewing's Brignoni says. "I was just emailing [MIA Beer's] Eddie Leon to check up on him," he says. "When our brewery wasn't yet ready, he let us use his tanks, so the appreciation goes way back."
Beermakers are family, Brignoni says. "We argue, we're scrappy, but we also share hops when we have to," he says. "We're all in this together. It's not like just one person is winning."
Below is a list of Miami breweries.
Abbey Brewing Company. Though the Abbey offers a full liquor menu, as well as several house-made brews, its Schwartzweizen, made with a 600-year-old yeast strain, is
Biscayne Bay Brewing. This Doral brewery doesn't dabble much in flavored beers. You won't find peanut butter or gummy bear-infused brews. Instead, Biscayne Bay Brewing offers a good selection of no-frills beers made with water from the Biscayne Aquifer. The approach to beer is classic, and core beers include a saison, a pale ale, an IPA, a kolsch, and a porter. Be on the lookout for limited-edition beers aged in whiskey barrels. 8000 NW 25th St., Miami; 305-381-5718; biscaynebaybrewing.com.
Bousa Brewing. This 1,500-square-foot brewery in Little River is so close to the railroad tracks that when the Brightline train passes, patrons walk out the door to wave to the passengers. Bousa offers a good selection of ales, ranging from citrusy blondes to rich, malty ryes, along with IPAs, stouts, and wheat beers. 7235 NW Fourth Ave., Miami; 305-363-5166; bousabrewing.com.
Concrete Beach Brewery. Concrete Beach calls its taproom a social hall for a good reason. In addition to serving beer,
J. Wakefield Brewing. Johnathan Wakefield earned a master's degree in accounting before deciding that brewing beer was a lot more fun than crunching numbers. Boasting Star Wars-themed murals, this Wynwood brewery is known for its fruit-forward Berliner Weisses — tart, low-alcohol beers that go well with Miami's warm, tropical climate. Beers are made with tropical fruits, such as the Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Berliner Weisse, ranked number eight among the top ten beers of the world by ratebeer.com. 120 NW 24th St., Miami; 786-254-7779; jwakefieldbrewing.com.
Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery. Ismael Fernandez named his brewery Legacy
Lincoln's Beard Brewing. Lincoln’s Beard's most popular beer is the P. Swayze, an American IPA with balanced, juicy notes. The brewery, which is located in the Bird Road Arts District and boasts the tagline "Weird at the beard," strives to be a community gathering place with weekly trivia contests, live music, and karaoke. The event's annual Swayzepalooza features various iterations of its P. Swayze beer, along with activities celebrating the iconic actor. 7360 SW 42nd St., Miami; 305-912-7390; lincolnsbeardbrewing.com.
M.I.A. Beer Company. This far-west brewery boasts a large selection of 54 draft beers and a full food menu. Find more than 150 brews at any given time, including core M.I.A. beers with Magic City-centric names such as Miami Weiss and Tourist Trappe. In addition, M.I.A. pours
Miami Brewing Company. Miami Brewing is as much a destination as it is a brewery. Located in Miami's Redland farming community, the brewery shares space with Schnebly Redland's Winery. The 10,000-square-foot taproom offers 20 beers on draft — many that contain local, tropical fruits. Try the Big Rod coconut blonde ale, Shark Bait mango wheat ale, or a fruit mead. Miami Brewing also has a dedicated taproom at Marlins Park, so you can enjoy local beer during baseball games. 30205 SW 217th Ave., Suite 100, Homestead; 305-242-1224; miamibrewing.com.
Nightlife Brewing. Located on the first floor of the Marlins Park Home Plate Garage, Nightlife's taproom serves beers including a Hefeweizen, a
Spanish Marie Brewery. Nestled in the warehouse spaces next to Miami Executive Airport, Spanish Marie Brewery boasts a Prohibition theme, with beers named for notable figures from Miami’s rumrunning days. Its moniker traces to Marie Waite, a smuggler whose husband was killed in a shootout with the Coast Guard in the 1920s. Beers on tap include several house-made cream ales, wheat beers, and a black IPA. The taproom also offers board games and a projection-screen TV that covers an entire wall. 14241 SW 120th St., Suite 109, Miami; 786-780-4872; instagram.com/spanishmarie.
The Tank Brewing Co. A couple of homebrewers got together with a cigar-industry vet to start this craft brewery just a few blocks from the Palmetto Expressway. The Tank measures a whopping 25,000 square feet, with 7,500 square feet for the brewing area alone. Inside the taproom is a bar that pours 16 beers on tap, including guest brews. Core beers include La Finca, a Belgian wheat saison; Freedom Tower, an amber ale; and El Farito, an American IPA. The Tank also hosts an annual 5K beer run, fundraisers, and other community activities. 5100 NW 72nd Ave., A-1, Miami; 786-801-1554; thetankbrewing.com.
Titanic Brewery. Located near the University of Miami, this is one of Miami's oldest brewpubs. Titanic brews six beers, including an IPA, a rye, a nut brown ale, an English bitter, and an oatmeal stout. In 2000, the brewery took home two awards at the annual Great American Beer Festival — a Herculean feat for a small brewery. 5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-667-2537; titanicbrewery.com.
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Wynwood Brewing Company. The first brewery to open in the city of Miami, Wynwood Brewing is a father-son business that offers core favorites such as La Rubia blonde ale and the award-winning Pop's Porter, named for the elder partner, affectionately called Pops Brignoni. The brewery fully embraces its artistic neighborhood by hosting local street artists and sporting beer-tap handles fashioned from spray-paint cans. 565 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-982-8732; wynwoodbrewing.com.