Beer & Wine

Jesse Morris' Beer Genius Fuels Concrete Beach's Rise

Grab a candy of choice (preferably a sugar-coated gumdrop), pop it into your mouth, plug your nose, and chew. What do you taste? Something sweet and gooey. Now unplug your nose and wait for it. "The first thing that happens is actually flavor," Jesse Morris explains. "That's what you're capable of tasting; you can only really taste five things. What happened after [you unplugged your nose] is aroma — smell — and that's really what's more important to your experience when you're evaluating almost anything."

The gumdrop trick is a game that Morris, front house manager at the social hall in Wynwood and a certified Cicerone for Concrete Beach Brewery, likes to play with guests to teach them the difference between aroma and flavor. Morris was born and raised in Tampa, where he worked for Alan Newman, who would later start Concrete Beach. Newman called Morris in 2013 for help with his new Wynwood operation, and the beer enthusiast packed his bags — and his wife — and made the move south. Concrete Beach Brewery opened this past May.

He received his Cicerone certification in October. He studied for years and then avoided drinking beer before the exam. "The Cicerone program is fantastic because it does give you a benchmark and lets you gauge your process as a drinker," Morris says. Every day when he gets to work, he makes sure "the draft system is working correctly, that our beers taste the way they're supposed to taste, that every time we pour a pint of beer, our customers are getting the best possible representation of the beer we spend so long making.

"Our job really is to help guide our guests through this relatively new world of [craft beer] in Miami."

The longest-running employee of Concrete Beach, Morris has his own beer on tap, available daily to customers. "Cerveza de Jesse," he says, pronouncing even his name with an exaggerated Spanish accent where "Jesse" sounds more like "Yes-see," is based on an old homebrew recipe he refined with the help of Concrete Beach's head brewer, Chris McGrath. "Chris and I were talking about putting out a high-alcohol beer, and I had been kicking around a recipe for a couple of years of a barley wine that we make with brown sugar," he says with a laugh. "We went for it, and now we have a 12-percent-alcohol brown-sugar barley wine named after me on draft."

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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.