Beer & Wine

MIA Beer Company and Big Cypress Distillery Collaborate to Make Gin and Beer

You've heard of breweries collaborating to produce small-batch, limited-edition beer. However, MIA Beer Company (formerly MIA Brewing Company) and Big Cypress Distillery have teamed up to make a hops-less beer called a gruit that will eventually be distilled into gin.  

A recognized beer style by the Beer Judge Certification Program, a gruit is an ale brewed with a mixture of herbs and botanicals used as bittering agents rather than hops. It was Europe's most popular ale for hundreds of years and one example of how beer was made before hops became a standard ingredient. 

Gruits were particularly popular among homebrewers during Medieval times but eventually became a disreputable style per the German Purity Law, according to writer Dave Bonta, who attributed this phenomenon and equated the law to the modern-day war on drugs that "fed off the anti-clerical and anti-pleasure hysteria of the Protestant Reformation."

"The much-lauded German Beer Purity Laws have their inception in anti-gruit and anti-homebrew regulations of this period," according to a article Bonta wrote, stating that homebrewers at the time (who were mostly women, he added) were often defamed as "slatternly cheats who never missed a chance to adulterate their brew."

Miami doesn't exactly have a problem with makers adulterating their brew (but where are the women brewers?), allowing local brewers and distillers to make almost anything they damn well please.

It was Plata who approached the brewery for a collaboration. He first wanted to make a whiskey collaboration. However, because Big Cypress owner Fernando Plata has immediate access to botanicals in his line of work, MIA Beer Company owner Eddie Leon and brewer Michael Demetrus suggested making a gruit and turning it into gin. 

And like a scene plucked straight out of a Breaking Bad episode, Demetrus came up with the recipe right on the spot within a matter of minutes, Plata says. He described the meeting as very humbling.

Plata provided the herb mixture, and Demetrus provided the grain and brew power. In turn, Plata will provide his distillery to turn the beer into gin. He says the beer should transition smoothly because the mixture is typically used for making gin. 

The beer, named Big Cypress Hop-less,  is available at MIA's taproom, but the gin itself, called MIA Gin, won't be ready for another five or six weeks, Plata says. 

The gin needs a second distillation and more botanicals to be completed. Some of the botanicals used include juniper, coriander, angelica root, cloves, lemon and orange peels, rose hips, vanilla, cinnamon, and anise. It'll be brewed from a neutral grain spirit to keep some of the malt characteristics.

The style is a departure from what the American beer drinker's palate is accustomed to. 

"A gruit is not a beer that a lot of people make," Plata says. "Everybody wants everything hop-forward in the U.S. now." 

Leon describes the beer as having a holiday spiciness, as well as "slightly sweet and tastes like something you would drink in the fall. The prominent spice is coriander." 

This first collaboration between a distillery and a brewery in Miami is a milestone for the county's fairly young craft beer/spirits industry. Plata figures it could be the first gin distillery-brewery collaboration. Both Leon and Plata came away with a newfound appreciation for each other's craft.

"I didn't realize that brewing beer is really the first step in making whiskey," Leon says. "We hope to have a few more collaborations soon." 

Stay tuned. Once the gin is ready, Leon and Plata will hold a tasting of it and the beer at a local craft beer bar — perhaps the Local 150 or maybe the Bend Miami, Leon says — and showcase a cocktail made with both. 

Big Cypress Distillery is located at 13995 SW 144th Ave., #207, in Miami, and MIA Beer Company is located at 10400 NW 33rd St., Suite 150, in Doral.
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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky