Where to Drink in Miami, Florida

Destinations by | Aug 2015 | Issue #103

Illustrations by Sam Brewster

From the beach bodies on the boardwalk to the Art Deco architecture on Ocean Drive and the busy cafés in Little Havana, Miami is a colorful city. It’s also a place with a rich and varied food and drink heritage. Until recently though, beer has been a wallflower at the culinary celebration. While coping with southern Florida’s heat and humidity, Miamians’ have long gravitated to piña coladas over Pale Ales. And it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that craft brewing began to gain traction in the Magic City.

Florida laws didn’t allow brewpubs until 1992, after local bar owner and beer enthusiast Kevin Rusk lobbied for the change. Three years later, The Abbey Brewing Co. opened across the causeway in Miami Beach. Located in a 1930s-era building in South Beach, The Abbey’s 12 taps pour year-round offerings like Immaculate IPA and Brother Dan’s Double, along with a rotating cast of guest beers.

Finally in 1999, after apprenticing under Alan Pugsley at Shipyard Brewing in Portland, Maine, Rusk opened Titanic Brewing in Coral Gables near the University of Miami. Today, the brewpub’s 12 taps include six flagship beers such as Triple Screw Light Ale and Captain Smith Rye Ale, which both won silver medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in 2000. The brewpub’s seafaring theme continues from its beer names to its nautical décor and menu items, like jambalaya and a blackened dolphin sandwich.

But it would be more than a decade before the city’s next wave of breweries appeared. Wynwood Brewing Co. by father-son team Luis Brignoni Sr. and Jr. debuted in 2011. The taproom opened in 2013 with 12 taps including the light-bodied La Rubia American Blond Ale and Pop’s Porter, a gold medal winner at last year’s GABF. Tap handles made from repurposed spray paint canisters echo the street art in the brewery’s neighborhood, the Wynwood Arts District.

Meanwhile, in Homestead, Peter Schnebly also added the Miami Brewing Co. to his Schnebly Redland’s Winery in 2011, bringing the area’s brewery total to four. Roughly 35 miles south of downtown Miami, guests can sample a flight of four playfully named beers like Shark Bait Wheat Ale, Gator Tail Brown Ale and Vice IPA, while enjoying the tiki huts and waterfall on the patio.

103Destinations2Located west of Miami in Doral, the long bar and sleek design of the taproom at M.I.A. Beer Co. echoes many of the modern bars found in downtown Miami. Owner Eddie Leon and brewmaster Michael Demetrus, formerly of Finch’s Beer in Chicago, began production in July 2014 before opening their taproom in January 2015. Stop by on Friday nights for live music, a Caribbean-inspired menu (think conch fritters and guava barbeque pork) and a lineup of 54 taps, about half of them house beers. And don’t miss Mana Mana, a sour ale fermented with guanabana or soursop, a tropical fruit native to the area.

Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. incorporated in 2012 and began production in August 2014. With a taproom in Doral slated to open in September, its beers are available for growler fills and at various bars and restaurants in the greater metropolitan area. The brewery’s five mainstays include Biscayne Bay Saison and Miami Pale Ale, plus specialty releases like La Colada Coffee Porter.

It’s more than a vibrantly spray painted exterior that sets this gas station apart from its peers. With a selection of over 200 beers and 16 taps for Crowler and growler fills, people flock to Mendez Fuel from all corners of Miami. Funky Buddha Hop Gun and Cigar City Jai Alai are common finds here in bottles and cans, while a variety of J Wakefield, Wynwood and M.I.A. selections are often on tap. Besides beer, Mendez Fuel has a juice bar and made-to-order deli food.

Just south of Mendez Fuel is the Coconut Grove neighborhood beer-and-burger joint LoKal. Restaurateur Matt Kuscher joined forces with beer director David Rodriguez to conceptualize LoKal, opening the bar and restaurant in 2011 along with his wife Priscilla. Try the Miami Heat burger with jalapenos and Sriracha or the award-winning chicken and waffles with Boynton Beach’s Due South Caramel Cream Ale at this dog-friendly restaurant (the “doggy menu” features Bowser Beer, a non-alcoholic beverage made for dogs).

After LoKal’s success, Kuscher and Rodriguez set their sights on the Wynwood neighborhood and opened Kush in 2014. Combining food, beer and local art, Kush offers a high-end reserve list and 18 taps that concentrate on products from Florida breweries. Menu standouts include the Frita burger, topped with guava jelly, and the made-from-scratch key lime pie. Florida pints are just $4 on Mondays.

John Wakefield, a homebrewer who got his professional start making Berliner Weisse with Cigar City, opened J Wakefield Brewing in February 2015. The taproom’s mélange of large-scale murals and comic book art has a heavy Star Wars theme. Try a flight or take home a growler filled with one of 15 unusual creations, from Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Berliner Weisse (DFPF) to Hazelnut Coffee Imperial Wheat Stout.

Also located in Wynwood, the Boxelder Craft Beer Market opened in February 2015 with an inviting taproom designed and built by owners Adam and Nicole Darnell. Boxelder features one line dedicated to kombucha, 19 taps of beers such as Prairie’s Eliza5beth Saison and Iduna Cru from Wild Beer Co., and bottles from the likes of Gravity Brewing and Mikkeller. With plenty of indoor and outdoor table space, gourmet popcorn and food trucks on weekends, Boxelder is a relaxed place to enjoy a beer.

Concrete Beach Brewery opened its Wynwood Social Hall in May, but its bottles have been available since November 2014. The newest project from Alchemy & Science—a business incubator headed by Alan Newman of Magic Hat fame—Concrete Beach seeks to bolster the craft beer market in Miami. This airy space offers six house beers including Rica Wheat IPA and Stiltsville Pilsner alongside four guest drafts from neighboring breweries.

Just around the corner, Wood Tavern [woodtavernmiami.com] attracts a diverse crowd to its dark wood interior and large outdoor space. Wood’s 12 taps include everything from local beers to Blue Point Toasted Lager and Founders Centennial IPA, plus over 30 bottles and cans. The tavern doesn’t serve food, but come on Tuesdays for DJs, half off everything happy hour and free tacos.

For biergarten-style outdoor seating and an expansive charcuterie menu in Wynwood, try The Butcher Shop. Located in a refurbished butcher shop, ten of its 24 taps continually rotate, featuring brews such as Biscayne Bay’s Saison and Bell’s Oberon. Pair your beer with a German pretzel, grilled octopus, smoked pork loin, or a bacon sundae.