Does Beer Count as a Vice? Brews in Miami, FL.

As we head towards the southern most reaches of the contiguous 48 states, we look forward to hot weather,  tropical scenery and some outstanding beer. Our first brewscursion was unplanned, which can be some of the most exciting visits, to the Miami Brewing Company.

Located just a short 10 minute drive from the Florida Everglades National Park, Ashley and I noted the brewery’s sign as we drove into the sprawling wetland area. Being on the way back to our camp at the Larry & Penny Thompson Park we made the easy to decision to pop in and see what kind of fermented delights may lay within.

The brewery itself sits abutting a related winery among the fertile farm lands of the area. The exterior of the brew house gives some hints as to what to expect inside; empty shipping containers with vibrant street art tags form walls around an outdoor seating area with cornhole boards just waiting for players.

Tagged containers outside Miami Brewing Company
I wonder if these guys are hoppin’ the map too?
Miami Brewing Company tags at entrance
Vibrant tagging leads the way into the brew house.
The palette pops off the steel of the container.

Inside is no less electric. Some strange combination of brewery, clubhouse, arcade, and night club. Dark with flashes of illumination and color from stage lighting tucked behind seating, fermenters, the bar – really anywhere they can get placed.

The dark, cool vibe of Miami Brewing's taproom makes it feel a bit like a club.
The dark, clubby cool vibe of Miami Brewing’s taproom.

The beers were nothing less than I’d expect from South Florida: lychee, coconut and mango infused concoctions abound. 

Our  flavorful flight at Miami Brewing
The flavors of Southern Florida are all over the draft list at Miami Brewing Company.

We start with a free sample of the Beachee Lychee IPA – intensely fruity, obviously with lychee, but imparting tastes similar to white grape and pear. We then go with a flight of the Little Havana Cafe Con Leche Stout, Flamingo Ale, VICE IPA, and the R.I.S.   The Lil’ Havana has a powerful coffee aroma, but the brew itself has a very mild profile. The most notable flavor is oddly root beer. The Flamingo Ale is a mango and coconut infused hefeweizen, which, no surprise, is very fruit forward. The coconut in particular dominates up front with a very clean, quick finish. The VICE IPA reminds me of a west coast brew with grassy, floral hops. It actually reminds me a lot of Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale mainstay albeit with a more abrupt finale. Possibly the most interesting of our choices was the R.I.S. – a barrel aged, soured Russian Imperial Stout. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but this beer tasted almost like a mistake someone would make home brewing – something you’ve invested a lot of time (and likely money) into only to find out it got accidentally infected but you don’t want to let it go because of everything you’ve put into it. I’ve been there. But the incredible thing is I kinda dig this beer. It’s weirdly complex. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this was actually a mistake in this case, but wow there’s a lot going on here.

The entrance to J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami, Florida.
I sense a disturbance in the Force…it must be beer hype.

Our next stop was one I was VERY excited for: J. Wakefield Brewing Co. of Miami, Florida! I’d only ever had some of their collaborations with Trillium back up in Boston, but those were always such bomb pastry stouts I figured these guys must be brewing up some magic in Dade County. As perhaps a cautionary note: this brewery is in an up and coming hipster neighborhood that is mere blocks from a very questionable neighborhood. Parking is tight and you need to download an app to pay the meter (seriously, Miami? I got data limits!) but I wouldn’t want to park too far away….

Comic book inspired pop art of Star Wars, Marvel, Nintendo and other nerdy staples cover almost every inch of J. Wakefield's taproom and it is pretty darn sweet!
Comic book inspired pop art of Star Wars, Marvel, Nintendo and other nerdy staples cover almost every inch of J. Wakefield’s taproom and it is pretty darn sweet!

The first thing anyone has to notice are the giant murals of Star Wars characters done in pop art style. From the massive Darth Vader street art outside the brewery to the Luke, Han and the gang done up in comic book motif on the interior. There are also Marvel super heroes and villains, Nintendo all-stars and other pieces of nerd art in a variety of media formats all about the place that gives it the feel of the hippest geek’s garage a la the Weezer song. 

The tap line up at J. Wakefield Brewing with additional geek art.
More from the ultra Geek-Chic J. Wakefield taproom. And yeah, I see you #seektheseal decals!

But enough about me fanboying out about the wall art. Let’s talk about the beer. First and foremost, what I was really excited to try were the hyped up sours and big, adjunct stouts that I think the brewery is most noted for. They had recently released a series of 4 James Bond inspired collaboration stouts, but sadly they would only pour their non-collab The Stout is Not Enough in a flight so that narrowed down the selection of the darker stuff. I opted in this case for three sours: Stush, Put it on The Poll, and Meet Me Halfway along with The Stout is Not Enough. Our first taste was of the Stush, one of the brewery’s “core beers” – a Berliner Weisse with a tart but light citric flavor. This one was really nice, but lacking in some of the balance I like with a sour as it was sort of one note tart and then quick finish. The next beer in the line was the Put it on the Poll – a Berliner brewed with 600 pounds (!!!!) of guave and passion fruit. THIS was everything that was missing in Stush, a big tart kick on the tongue follows a massive fruit nose that smells of the tropics in a glass. With the taste at the finish coming back full circle to luscious fruit additions; this beer is well balanced between sweet and sour and a total winner. We then moved onto Meet Me Halfway, a Brett-sour aged in wine barrels. This beer stood out in our trio of sours instantly by its color; almost a murky rust color with a nose heavy of wine soaked wood. This one was perhaps the most odd of the four beers, with the kind of dirty sourness that brettanomyces impart on beer mixed with the earthy fullness of the barrels. The beer is 9% and it feels like it, heavy in the mouth. It’s a good beer, but it’s a little heavy on the barreling removing some of the dark berry flavors I tend to look for in these beers for such straight oakiness. The last beer is the stout, aged with vanilla and cacao nib. At 12% this is a haymaker of a brew and despite its name should be enough for anyone! Heavy dark chocolate flavors and booze. Lots of chocolate and booze. I don’t know if the vanilla is adding sweetness or booziness (think vanilla extract), but whoa I’m glad this is just a 5 oz. taster! 

Our flight at J. Wakefield. Left to right: Stush, Meet Me Halfway, Put it on the Poll, and The Stout is not Enough.
Our flight at J. Wakefield. Left to right: Stush, Meet Me Halfway, Put it on the Poll, and The Stout is not Enough.

Look, I don’t like being a Debbie-Downer as I am actually far from a Beer Snob despite some of my friends’ opinions. I drink Miller High Life and Lites regularly in the rig for crying out loud and I like em’! But I have to say sometimes hype is unjustified. This flight cost us a shocking $18 (tip not included). Sometimes, I think snobbery goes the other way and I think maybe J. Wakefield is sadly victim to that. These beers were good, I was happy with them and I would drink any of them again, but not at these prices. Sadly, sometimes hype is just that, and with 22 oz. bombers going for $25+ and flights going for just under that I kind of think that’s what’s going on here. The only beer we had I’d go out of my way for to get again was the Put it on the Poll but not if I’m going to have to shell out that kind of moo-la for it. Like I said good beer, AWESOME taproom, but maybe not worth all the hub-bub.  

Until next time you beer nerds, hop heads, Brett beasts, and super cool folks out there!

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