My job takes me out of town a handful of times each year. When I was assigned a trip to Miami, I started to look at their craft beer scene. Quickly, I realized there were quite a few places that I would like to visit – more than I would have time for. Luckily, my work event was in an area called Wynwood Arts District which also is home to a number of craft beer businesses.
Brief History of Wynwood Arts District
Wynwood used to be a warehouse and manufacturing portion of Miami but it had seen better days. Many buildings were abandoned and crime had become a major concern. Over the last decade, there has been a movement to rehabilitate these neglected and unused building. The goal was to develop this area as an arts district. This movement has been successful as it has become one of the most prominent creative communities in the United States. Murals are painted on just about every surface that you can see. There are art galleries, boutique retail shops, bars, and breweries. They even boast the largest open-air-street-art installations in the world due to the number of murals in the area. There are even walking tours designed around them.
Learn move about this area at the Wynwood Arts District Association website.
At first glance, this area isn’t for everyone. It is still in the process of being reclaimed so there is a bit of poverty in this area. But there is something truly unique about how Miami is working to bring new life and industry into this once troubled neighborhood.
My Wynwood Experience
Like I said, Miami has more to offer than I could possibly get to on a short work trip. By itself, the Wynwood area has three breweries on the same street and many other restaurants and bars that are highly recommended. So my experience is just a snapshot of what you can expect when visiting.
I am a huge Yelp fan. So whenever I am looking to try something new it is the first place I go. Wynwood is the home of a lot of highly rated spots on Yelp. To help narrow my search, I turned to social media and asked where I should go. Kush was the clear stand out as it was recommended by many on social media and had amazing Yelp reviews. If I wanted some amazing food and equally great beer then this was the place to go.
This was confirmed when I saw “Good beer ain’t cheap – Cheap beer ain’t good” painted on the wall as I entered Kush. Do you agree with that statement? Their food is farm to table but that doesn’t mean health food as they are known for their burgers and chicken & waffles.
The place is very small – I estimate that it can seat 30 people between the inside and outside tables and bar. This meant my group of six had to wait for a table but that wasn’t an issue since we were all excited to check out the drink menu.
Here is the craft beer I enjoyed before and during dinner
Barrel of Monks – Parade of Souls – Belgian Imperial Stout
I’ve never heard of this brewery before but this beer was excellent. Bold, strong but not over-powering. Great way to start off the night.
Funky Buddha – Last Buffalo in the Park
Last Snow is the non-barrel aged version of this beer and I had recently tried it during a bottle share. I loved it and couldn’t resist trying Last Buffalo when I saw it on their list. The coconut and coffee are still evident as the bourbon barrel aging adds a deep rich contrast.
Civil Society – Fresh
This one came recommended to me by the bartender – I am glad I listened. Bold, juicy hop aromas and flavors dominated. It was remarkably heavy for an IPA. I left very impressed by this brewery.
Appetizers, Dinner and Dessert!
My group shared Gator Bites as an appetizer. The gator bites were breaded and fried and delicious. A spicy seasoning and a dipping sauce added even more flavor to an already excellent dish.
Our server told us the frita burger is the best item on the menu. I can’t ignore a recommendation like that so I ordered it with a side of sweet potato fries. The frita burger is topped with guava jelly, melted gruyere cheese, potato stix, crispy bacon, LoKal sauce and then pressed on a flat top grill. And of course, there was a juicy beef patty in with all of that.
I will go on record saying that this was the best burger I have ever had; ever.
They make everything on site; even the desserts. A co-worker ordered the key lime pie and I wasn’t shy about grabbing a fork and taking a bite or two. It is just as sweet as it is tart – perfectly balanced and the best way to end the meal. Bottom line; leave room for dessert!
J. Wakfield Brewing
I knew I was not going to have time to visit many breweries. There were many I had hoped to get to but timing wasn’t on my side. Out of all of the recommendations and reviews that I read, J. Wakefield Brewing was #1 on my list. J. Wakefield is in the heart of the Wynwood Art District so it wasn’t far from where I was staying.
The brewery and taproom sits back a little from the street which gives them room for some outside seating. And much like the rest of Wynwood, the exterior is more or less a giant mural. On the inside, the taproom isn’t large but has high ceilings. There are tables directly inside the door to the left. The bar is in the back left corner with small tables to the right. Despite being busy, the two bartenders kept everyone’s glass full.
I let the bartender know that I was from out of town and wanted to try a flight of beer. He quickly asked if there were any styles I didn’t like. I told him I was open to try anything. He grabbed a flight paddle and quickly poured me four tasters and handed me a list of what was in each glass.
Beers I tried in my flight:
Brush – 14% imperial stout – collaboration with omnipollo
A few colleagues that were with my claimed it was really strong but I based on what I have had in the past, I disagreed. Yes, it was heavy, with a full mouthfeel but the 14% ABV wasn’t obvious. I only had a 4oz taster but I think a full 10oz pour would have been perfect. The adjunct flavors were all there and in perfect harmony.
24th St Brown Ale
So when I saw that the bartender gave me a brown ale that they brew year round, I thought he has to be kidding me. I like brown ales but they are rarely impressive. That is where I was wrong. This brown ale had much stronger aromas and flavors than I expected. Lots of caramel notes and it was very thick for the style.
Hops 4 Teacher
There was something about this that tasted familiar and I liked it. Then I did a quick search to find out that it is made with Citra hops. I really enjoy a Citra IPA and this was not exception.
One Trick Pony
The color on this one is amazing! Red to pink in color and a strong tartness level to it. It is a collaboration with Omnipollo from Sweden but brewed in Miami. It is an Imperial Gose made with mango, dragon fruit, passion fruit, sea salt and lactose. I can tell they are serious about sour beers when I tried it.
I enjoyed full pours of these:
Oi Oi Oi
I find saisons to be one of the most interesting styles. For many, they can be off-putting because of the funkiness that they deliver. Oi Oi Oi is different in that way; it produces a formidable grapefruit flavor that really supplements the typical saison attributes.
So I thought I was done at J Wakefield when a local told me that I couldn’t leave before trying DFPF. He went on to tell me that it was recently ranked one of the best Berliner Weisse in the world by Ratebeer (#1) and Beeradvocated (#2). That’s high praise. So I grabbed a glass. It has a bright red color. DFPF stands for Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit which is evident in the first sniff of the beer. The taste backs this up as it has a strong, sweet fruit taste. People lined up around the block to get this beer in bottles a week prior to my visit and I can tell why. Definitely a top beer in this style.
Boxelder Craft Beer Market
While at J. Wakefield, a few local craft beer fans recommended I try Boxelder before ending my night. It is a craft beer bar and bottle shop that is in the northern section of the Wynwood Arts District. It was about a 5 minute walk from J. Wakefield. I gladly took their advice headed there. Walking through Wynwood is a sight because of the murals and interesting people.
Boxelder is a small bar with low lighting. The bar stretches along most of the right side while shallow shelves are along the left side that holds bottles to drink onsite or carry out. Finally, there is a outside seating area behind the building. Nice vibe and the beer list was insane. Since the night was ending, I only had one more beer.
After having Fresh by Civil Society at Kush the day before, I decided to try Average Height by them. It wasn’t as good as Fresh but I still thoroughly enjoyed this IPA. They say it is made with Hallertau Blank and Huell Melon (via Untappd). I am not sure what that means but I recommend trying anything by Civil Society.
This craft beer bar is definitely a local favorite and I can see why. They had beers on tap that are not easy to get and their bottle selection was top notch.
Wynwood Is My Recommendation
I try to make the best of my work trips and going to Miami in February isn’t the worst place to be. Getting to try some great beer while there definitely made it a worthwhile trip.
I am sure other parts of Miami have great food and beer but on this trip; Wynwood Arts District was the perfect spot for me.
Have you been to Miami? What places and beer did you like the most?