In preparation for Harry’s Design District beer pairing dinner on March 29 (one week from today,) we are visiting each contender for the flavor of its operation and strategy with chef Bradley Herron’s menu. Your ticket decides the winner and which brewery owns the taps in April. Co-hosting with Mr. Eric Larkee on Tuesday is Evan Benn, newly minted editor in chief of Indulge magazine and beer aficionado long before the days of his “Brew in Miami” column for the Miami Herald. After graduating from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, he reported on the subject for the St. Louis Post Dispatch (including authoring a book on the city’s brewing history!) We are so lucky to have him onboard.
Last week, Larkee, Fraga and I checked in to see what a difference five years makes for Miami’s first craft production brewery. Wynwood’s tap room was packed with lacy pints, tulips, and flight paddle sippy cups as Miami took a mid-Monday afternoon beer break. So much for 305 Cafecito. Before sampling from among its 18 styles on tap (including six guest brews,) we made the rounds in the warehouse facility to the back.
With a monthly production of 330 barrels at current full capacity, there was barely room to move as we slalomed through a forest of six 15 and four 30 barrel fermenters. Wynwood also has three bright tanks where carbonation and other flavorings can be added to finish beers, and its bottling line, added in 2015. We were practically mowed over by pallets of kegs and bottles backing their way out to the street in a hurry to trucks bound for grocery, bar and restaurant accounts through Brown, its exclusive distributor since 2013.
“Craft beer has been trending upward throughout the U.S. for much of the past 10 years, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see it take hold in Miami,” Benn explains. “Wynwood Brewing paved the way for other breweries to follow with its vibrant tap room and award-winning beers. The result has been a growing local craft beer community that chefs, restaurateurs, bartenders and foodies are enthusiastically supporting.”
Wynwood certainly seems like the Goliath in this bout. But being a “big” brewery in an emerging craft market means you are still relatively small — most likely a family-owned operation sticking to its roots, distributing locally and staying tapped into your community and its tastes. Since co-founders and owners Luis Brigoni and his Pops set up shop in 2011, a wave of local breweries opened in their wake, certainly on-trend with the national market. But why (and how) in Miami? Rodriguez chalks up the energy and support for the trade to our DNA as a tourist market.
“Pretty much Miami was the last frontier, the last large metropolitan city that didn’t have a brewery to call its own until we opened,” he explains. “Culinary-minded travelers visit a destination and look for its local beer as a way to get a taste for the local culture and its flavor. We filled that void here. You also look at the slow food movement and its influence. There’s a demand for farm to table in food, and now people want to drink fresh, local beer, too. Having great restaurants are a point of pride in a community. So are breweries. We’ve really felt that here.”
Rodriguez bets on Biscayne most likely featuring its Saison and Pale Ale, which they are known for. Maybe the Coffee Porter.
“Purely speculation,” Rodriguez adds. “But I can’t really think about what beers my opponent has chosen. I’m more concerned about our selection and pairing choices.”
According to Rodriguez, balance is the main priority when pairing beer with food. The food shouldn’t overpower the beer nor vice versa. When the flavors of both beer and food are complementary, they bring out other attributes normally not perceived.
“What’s unique about our beers is that they are very balanced. No one particular flavor goes unchecked by another,” he says. “A balanced beer allows you to enjoy each of the specific flavors within a desirable threshold. The contrary is also true, which is one-sided beers that are powerful in one flavor don’t pair well with food and one can most likely consume only one.”
Now that wouldn’t be fun for anyone!