Johnathan Wakefield
Johnathan Wakefield
Photo by Rocco Riggio/MediaNow

J. Wakefield and Chef Aaron Brooks Collaborate on IPA to Benefit Australian Firefighters UPDATED

Updated: This story was updated to reflect a name change in the Wakefield collaboration beer.

J. Wakefield Brewing founder Johnathan Wakefield and Edge Steak and Bar and Four Seasons Miami executive chef Aaron Brooks have collaborated on a beer that will benefit the Rural Firefighters of New South Wales.

In past years, the chef and brewmaster have worked together on a special beer served at Brooks' annual Australia Day barbie. 

This year, however, the two wanted to do something more after the tragic wildfires that have ravaged Brooks' homeland since late July of 2019. Since that time, at least 28 people have died nationwide. In the state of New South Wales, which is the home to the city of Sydney and numerous coastal towns and National Parks, over 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. Australia's unique wildlife population has been decimated, with the animal death toll estimated at a staggering one billion casualties. Though many regions are experiencing the relief of rainstorms right now, there's still much work to be done.

Brooks, a native Australian explains that the gravity of the situation didn't really hit him until early January. "Growing up in Australia, bush fires are something we experience. The country is hot and the land is dry, but the magnitude of these fires is something extraordinary." The chef says the pictures on social media of animals fleeing the fires really struck a chord. Then the fires became personal. "Just after the new year, I received a message from a good friend who lives in New South Wales. He said his entire farm was devastated. He had to evacuate his animals and family. He lost about 90 percent of his farmland."

Brooks said that out of all the organizations that could use help, he and Wakefield decided that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service would be the most appropriate organization to benefit from the beer. "My father was a forest ranger and firefighter for 40 years," Wakefield says. "I know the dangers of forest fires, and I know the huge effort that's required to help control them. Whatever we can do to help in any form, that's our calling."

The collaborative beer, called Bonzer! IPA, is a 7 percent ABV double India pale ale brewed with Galaxy hops from Australia and experimental hops from New Zealand. Australian leatherwood honey, found only in Tasmania, is also used in the beer. Brooks likes the honey for its unique floral taste. "It's something I use at Edge quite a lot, and I've always wanted to use it in a beer."

On Saturday, January 25, the beer will be released at a special party at J. Wakefield Brewery, starting at 11 a.m. The beer will be sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for $20 and on tap. From noon to 1 p.m., chef Brooks will grill lamb burgers at the brewery.

In addition, the beer will be offered on draft at Aaron Brook's sixth-annual Australia Day poolside barbie on Sunday, January 26, at Bahia at the Four Seasons Miami. The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and tickets cost $65 via eventbrite.com. The beer will also be available on draft at Edge Steak and Bar. A portion of proceeds from all Bonzer! IPA will benefit the NSW Rural Fire Service.

J. Wakefield Brewing. 120 NW 24th St., Miami; 786-254-7779; jwakefieldbrewing.com.

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