It’s the tail end of winter, and while most of the nation is busy digging cars out of snow, Miamians are enjoying sunny skies, gentle breezes, and summery temperatures.
To allow you to take advantage of the weather — and stay COVID safe — many of the city’s breweries are set up for customers to sit outside and enjoy refreshing craft brews that run the gamut from eyebrow-raising experimental sours to more traditional lagers and IPAs.
Chela's Beer Garden, a Mexican-themed beer garden, just popped up in Miami Lakes (15301 NW 67th Ave., Miami Lakes; chelasbeergarden.com). Complete with an outdoor patio, this dog- and family-friendly spot officially opened on February 11. They're starting out as a six-month affair but may end up sticking around long-term.
The outdoor area is extremely spacious, centered on a fountain and complete with plenty of picnic tables that allow for social distancing and games like giant Connect Four, Jenga, cornhole and (soon) a Ping-Pong table.
“We had this idea for a Mexican beer garden,” the team’s beer guru Mauricio Lacayo says simply. And the partnership — Lacayo, Dan Binkiewicz, Orlando Lamas, Julio Cabrera, and chef Daniel Gonzalez — made it happen.
“What I love about the place is that it has different rooms so you can enjoy the really big outside area but we have pretty much the same indoors — on the other side we have a bar and a lounge,” Cabrera says. “The place is huge and we have different options for people.”
Plans for the outdoor space include live music, DJs, and vintage car shows. “Kids love it, too!” adds Cabrera.
The idea behind Chela’s beer menu is to showcase local brews and beers that are well-suited to Miami, which is to say refreshing and summery. Think pilsners, lagers, and fruit-forward IPAs.
“There’s a lot of breweries and the craft-beer movement has grown. In the beginning, the beers were limited and the quality wasn’t there, but as the years have progressed they’ve been able to make high-quality beers,” says Lacayo.
The taps at Chela's will rotate, featuring brews from the likes of Tarpon River, Tripping Animals, and Wakefield Brewing, along with Mexican classics to fit the theme, such as Pacifico and Victoria.
At Wynwood’s taproom and bottle shop Boxelder Craft Beer Market (2817 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-942-7769; bxldr.com), the outdoor space comes complete with different food options, depending on the day of the week — not to mention the vast variety of beers.
“The weather lately has been great to have the back area,” says owner Adam Darnell. “It’s been really nice. Generally when people come, that’s where everybody wants to sit.”
With QR codes on the tables and a setup for transactions on the patio, customers don’t have to go inside for anything. And Thursday through Sunday, different food vendors set up outside serving everything from chopped-cheese sandwiches to square pizza.
The beer selection has actually increased during COVID times, says Darnell. “It’s definitely changed during the pandemic. We still have 20 taps but we’re not ordering nearly as much kegged beer.” Mainly because many breweries have transitioned to cans, he says.
“It gives us a chance to get a much wider variety. In packaged stuff, we generally have about 250 different beers and about ten different seltzers, which have also become very popular over the last year. For our natural-wine selection, we used to carry about 20 different bottles. Now we have about 50 that are biodynamic, natural, or organic.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Boxelder's staff has held steady. “Being a mom-and-pop place, our people are very important,” Darnell says.
Nearby, at Veza Sur Brewing Co. (55 NW 25th St., Miami; 786-362-6300; vezasur.com) in Wynwood, the extensive outdoor space has proven to be a COVID lifesaver. When the team opened the brewery in 2017, they wanted to take advantage of the local climate. Over the past year, that decision has paid off.
“When we started to think about what we wanted the taproom to be, we’ve got amazing weather here in Miami and we like drinking outside even when it’s hot and we wanted to be able to have bands and make something a little more lively and flexible, that’s why we decided to create most of the tap room outdoors,” says co-founder and CEO Max-Antonio Burger. About 70 percent of the taproom space is actually outside, he adds.
As far as the beers go, the brewery is inspired by Latin American and Miami flavors. “We felt that it was an opportunity to bring Latin American flavors to life in its beer as well as how we live and party and enjoy life,” Burger explains.
Over Super Bowl weekend, the brewery released a limited edition of its popular Lulo Sour beer in cans. The lulo fruit is native to Colombia. “It looks like a tomato but it tastes like a crossover between a kiwi and a pineapple,” Burger says. “It’s a sour-sweet kind of fruit and it goes amazing with our sour that we use as a base, because it adds a little sweetness but the tartness brings the flavor to life.
“Especially for Colombians, it’s like the big flashback,” he adds. “People really love it and it’s really refreshing.”
Another popular option is the Arroz con Mango, which brings the flavors of mango, ginger, and habanero with a base of rice. “I think it’s a fascinating beer because you really feel the heat as you drink it,” says Burger.
Veza Sur's newest release, South Coast IPA, is a full-bodied, 7.5 percent ABV brew made in the classic American style. It’s joining the brewery’s core beer portfolio, so it’ll be available year-round.
Besides cans, in 2019 the brand launched its signature stubby bottles adorned with the brewery’s rooster mural, designed by Guatemalan graffiti artist Javier España to honor the brewery’s Miami and Latino roots.
At North Miami’s Lost City Brewing Company (12207 NE 13th Ct., North Miami; 305-456-0318; lostcitybrewing.com), outdoor space is a new addition as of just a few weeks ago. The brewery, which opened its doors last year amid the pandemic, has recently spruced up an outdoor area behind the building.
“The plan was always to have a beer garden,” says co-owner Diego Escobar. "It’s a little over 1,000 square feet. We were able to fix it up and add some beer garden-style seating out there and some nice plants and lights."
Lost City’s beers run the gamut of traditional styles. “We offer German styles, Belgian styles, English styles and American IPAs,” Escobar says. “We’re more of a traditional brewery, but that’s how we wanted it to be. These are the types of beers that you can drink a lot of and not necessarily just have one and think that’s enough.”
The core lineup consists of three IPAs and three lagers. “It goes with the craft mainstream, if you can call it that. There are more IPA drinkers than anyone else," says Escobar. "We try to educate people and we’re very generous with our samples so people can see the range.”
The brewery is releasing new beers every two to three weeks. “Sometimes brand-new recipes, sometimes they’re slightly different beers from something that we brewed before that we’re trying to improve on,” Escobar says. One current option is a new West Coast-style double IPA that’s nearly 10 percent ABV, for those who like their beer with a bit of a kick.
Hialeah’s spacious Unbranded Brewing (1395 E. 11th Ave., Hialeah; 786-332-3097; unbrandedbrewing.com) has a sizable space set aside for a partially covered patio that’s complete with picnic tables, lights, and a suitably festive vibe.
“We have some nice lights hanging, so it’s kind of like a cool, secluded side. And the other has the speakers and the music, so it’s more like a vibrant side — it’s kind of cool, like having two rooms,” says manager JC Perez.
Trains pass by on the regular, which provides, as Perez puts it, “a theme-park kind of feel.”
The brewery offers live music indoors every Friday and Saturday — sometimes outdoors, too.
On February 20, to celebrate its first anniversary, Unbranded released a limited edition of its popular Hialeah Light Florida lager. A fourth in their Hazy series of beers is also set to release soon.
Whatever your beer palate, one of South Florida’s beloved breweries is serving up something to suit you — complete with all the fresh air you could ask for.
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