February means two things to Miami's J. Wakefield Brewing Co. fans: the annual release of the brewery's top-rated Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Berliner Weisse and its festival-style anniversary party, otherwise known as Wakefest.
As J. Wakefield's biggest specialty release of the year, Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit (also known as DFPF) has garnered a cult following since the first five-gallon batch was brewed on Cigar City's pilot system for the inaugural Hunahpu's Day in 2010, and named one of the country's best beers by Rate Beer in 2015. Approximately 1,000 bottles will be released at the brewery bay door at noon this Saturday, February 4, alongside two other never-before-seen specialty-release beers. Bottles will be sold for $20 apiece, with a two-bottle limit per person.
This year, brewmaster Johnathan Wakefield says the beer, which pours a deep pinkish-purple, is better than ever, brewed with 1,000 pounds of ripe Florida passionfruit and dragon fruit and bottled at a whopping 7 percent ABV (previous batches have been about 4 percent).
What does that mean? "It's a lot darker, with a stronger flavor from both fruits," Wakefield says. "You still get a lot of passionfruit-forward like you used to, but now you also get a real strong dragon-fruit note, and that's what we want."
For the first time, the brewery is also releasing two specialty collaboration brews Wakefield made with Sweden-based Omnipollo Brewing, whose owners he met during the 2016 RateBeer Best awards in Santa Rosa, California. The brewers hit it off and decided to bring their talents together. Moving forward, it's something Wakefield says he hopes to do annually.
This Saturday, find 500 bottles of each including One Trick Pony — a tart, sour ale he's calling a lassi-style gose — that combines lactose (milk sugar), sea salt, passionfruit, mango, and dragon fruit as a sort of mashup of his DFPF and Omnipollo's mango lassi gose. Second is Brush, an imperial smoked stout brewed with imported smoked malts and flavored with vanilla, cacao nibs, ancho chili, coffee, and hazelnut, which clocks in around 14 percent ABV.
If you can't make it to the official DFPF release, don't worry: There will be a few kegs of all three beers flowing during J. Wakefield Brewing's second-anniversary bash, Wakefest, Saturday, February 18, when the brewery will take over the nearby Mana Wynwood from noon to 4 p.m. The celebration will be a beer-fest-worthy lineup of limited-release and highly coveted suds supplied by local, national, and — for the first time — a number of international craft brewers.
"We changed the whole format this year, expanding the festival into a larger, 30,000-square-feet space so that we can include about 90 breweries," Wakefield says. "But the really special part is that many of the brewers we've invited will be from outside the country, and this will be their first time pouring beers in Miami."
Wakefield says he's excited to see a number newcomers to the area pouring at the 2017 event, many never before seen in South Florida, including the UK's Siren Craft Brew and Magic Rock Brewing Co., along with Omnipollo.
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Nationally recognized names expected to draw beer lovers' attention include Trillium Brewing Company (Fort Point, Massachusetts); Jester King (Austin, Texas); Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. (Decorah, Iowa); Other Half Brewing (Brooklyn, New York); Holy Mountain Brewing Company (Seattle, Washington); 3 Stars Brewing Co. (Washington, D.C.); and Abnormal Beer Company (San Diego, California).
The brewery will also release a never-before-brewed specialty anniversary bottle, available with the purchase of general-admission tickets online (VIP tickets are sold out). Dubbed the Golden Ticket, the anniversary bottle holds an imperial stout brewed with chocolate, caramel, sea salt, and coconut. You can also get a bottle of Desperado, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and flavored with ancho chili, cinnamon, and cacao.
"For $50 all-you-can-drink, I think it's a heck of a deal," Wakefield says. "What I'm trying to do here is something no one else has really done yet here in Miami, and that's offer an international craft beer fest unlike any other to help grow the scene and expose more people to some really phenomenal breweries. This isn't a celebration of the brewery's two-year mark; this a chance for me to invite all my industry friends to my home to pour their beers in Miami. To me, this is a festival, not an anniversary party."
Wakefest. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 18, at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami. Tickets cost $50 for general admission (unlimited beer samples but no bottle) and $75 for general admission (unlimited beer samples plus the limited-release bottle).