Every once in a while, a brewery comes along that defies everything that a brewery is “supposed to be.” The beer is different, the location is unexpected, and the entire brewing culture is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Yet, it all works, and you’re drawn in by the unique brews and trendy location and artsy culture and you want more.
The first time I met Concrete Beach Brewing at a Tampa Bay Beer Week event, I was a bit hesitant. With their beach balls, bright colors, and tropical beer, everything about them screamed “Miami.” And I immediately, turned up my beer snob nose. Breweries don’t play with beach balls. Beer isn’t tropical. You don’t put passion fruit in beer! What is a brewery doing in South Beach?!? And I was wrong. Everything I thought I knew about beer and breweries and Miami was wrong.
As it turns out, passion fruit in beer is pretty freaking amazing. And all of Miami isn’t a a beach. And Concrete Beach isn’t anywhere near South Beach. And there aren’t any beach balls in the brewery or tasting room. Again, I was wrong.
No, Concrete Beach isn’t even close to what I thought I knew.
Beer + Location + Culture = Concrete Beach Brewing
The beer at Concrete Beach can be described in one word–art. The brewers at Concrete Beach have taken modern brewing techniques, added influences from Miami’s vast Latin & tropical vibe, and created art. On our first visit to the brewery, the only beer I knew was their Tropic of Passion, a low (to me) 4.5% abv wheat ale with a distinct passion fruit aroma and tartness. However, hopping onto a bar stool, I was met with a menu of beer and beer styles that I never expected in Miami. From lagers to IPAs to stouts to Belgian wits, Concrete Beach showed tremendous variety for a brewery that I thought was a sunburnt, beach bum stereotype. Again, I was wrong. In fact, I was so wrong that when I finished my 4-pour sampling flight, I graduated to a couple full pours of my favs: Sugar Shack, a 5.5% abv citrusy-molassesy stout, Mas Hops, a whopping 10% abv double IPA with grapefruit, and Kungaloosh, a 6% abv toffee and ginger spiced ale.
As much as the beer surprised me, the location of Concrete Beach is no where near what I expected–the beach. However, it is in the middle of the Wynwood art district, surrounded by trendy restaurants & cafes, new construction, and enough diversity to rival the United Nations. Being not-from-the-area and diligently following Google maps, I was certain we were in the wrong neighborhood. In fact, even when we parked, I was still convinced that we were lost. There is nothing about Concrete Beach’s exterior that reminds me of a brewery, but once inside, it’s the perfect mix of brewery, art gallery, and eclectic industry. After chatting with bartenders and the manager, I came to understand the relationship a bit more. Wynwood is apparently the hip, place to be in Miami, full of murals, art galleries, and numerous bars & restaurants. Since Wynwood is where tourists and locals come for entertainment, it only makes sense to have a brewery that combines location, beer, music, literature, and art. (FYI…the most heavenly donuts and chicken sandwiches are just down the street from the brewery at Federal Donuts)
The most surprising element of Concrete Beach is the culture and attitude of everything and everyone in the brewery. From the art installations to the multilingual staff in the “social hall,” Concrete Beach’s attitude is not what I expected from a brewery. I’m so accustomed to breweries being decorated with old barrels & brewing paraphernalia that I spent time wandering around taking it all in, before I ever ordered. The walls of caged concrete, beaded curtains of art, and even painter’s pallets for flights blend the urban culture of the city and artistic neighborhood with a new approach to brewing with a purpose–to embrace the culture of the area and create a beer destination.
We visited early on a Saturday, just as the social hall opened, which is normal for us. However, I’ve heard that the live music and events are fabulous, and I desperately want to check one out.
Ask for a tour. Super cool information about the brewery, its owners, and how beer is made (if you don’t know).
Order a flight or two. Don’t just settle for a full pour of whatever you normally drink. Try everything. You won’t be disappointed.
Put plenty of time on the parking meter. Once you see the area, you’ll want to walk around. Don’t bother trying to drive; parking is limited due to construction. And, there’s sooooo much stuff to see and do in the area, you won’t want to miss it.
Go to Federal Donuts. Forget chicken & waffles. Chicken and donuts is what you want. As soon as you walk in, you won’t want to leave. The smell of donuts cooking is absolutely intoxicating. Might I suggest a bite of chicken sandwich followed by a bite of donut and repeat.
Be willing to admit when you are wrong. I was wrong about craft beer in urban Miami. I was wrong about passion fruit in beer. Simply put, I was wrong, and I’ll gladly return to Concrete Beach time and time again to remind myself of just how wrong I was.