Craft Beer Talk: An Interview with Miami Brewing Company
Over the past few years, Miami Brewing Company has been making a name for itself all across South Florida with it’s unique beer that incorporates local flavors into traditional craft beer styles. Located in Homestead, in a particularly underpopulated area of the Sunshine State known as The Redlands, the company has been working hard to spread the word on it’s beer. Now, with a major can release just months behind them, MBC is poised to break into a larger, national market.
I got a chance to speak with Julio Amado, assistant to owner Peter Schnebly, about the brewery. He tells me about where Miami Brewing Company has been, where it’s going, the state of the local craft beer culture, and how the brewer tries to remain environmentally conscious.
Ok, so first of all, can you tell me about Miami Brewing Company?
Sure. Originally we were called Schnebly Brewery, it stemmed off of Schnebly Winery. We switched the name to Miami Brewing Company just because it sounds better. Once you get outside of Miami and South Florida, Schnebly doesn’t have as much bang as Miami does. We built everything from scratch. We built our mash ton and our brew kettle out of flat metal, just basic sheet metal so we take a lot of pride in that. No one else that we know of really does that. We’ve been out for distribution now for, I want to say, about a year and a half. Our big can release was in March, and that really changes a lot for us because now you can find our beer in supermarkets, liquor stores; as opposed to before when you found it in a bar or a restaurant, that was pretty much it.
Right. [Tell me about your beer.]
We have four main beers, I guess our flagship beers. So we have Big Rod, which is a coconut blonde ale. It has hints of coconut, caramel and vanilla. Shark Bait is our mango wheat ale. Obviously, that one has a taste of mango in it. Our IPA is called Vice IPA. That one has citrus notes to it. And our last one is Gator Tale, which is a brown ale. It has some hints of chocolate and coffee to it. We’re experimenting more and more everyday with seasonals, and releasing some new flavors and things like that. Small runs usually. So right now we just finished up a milk stout that has some French vanilla to it. And we did a passion fruit IPA and a lychee IPA.
Alright, you said that you started in 2011 as Miami Brewing Company. So, what prompted you to start brewing beer? Because you guys started as a winery, was that the catalyst?
Well our owner, Peter Schnebly, he’s always wanted to do beer. Before he even did wine, his dream was to brew beer, to own a brewery, to make beer, all that stuff. The wine came about because they had a lot of fruit that wasn’t selling great for the produce company, so they started making wine with the extras. But beer was just really the dream of his. And there came a point where with the winery we were getting a lot of the female demographic and a lot of the guys who were coming along with them didn’t necessarily drink wine in the same quantities, if at all. So that’s pretty much that. We did it as an option for those guys that were coming in addition to being a dream of Peter’s.
Miami Brewing Company is big in the South Florida beer scene. How would you characterize the local craft beer culture?
It’s starting to get its feet under itself. It’s been kind of in its baby steps and now it’s getting a little bit more settled. You know, the past few years it’s been very new. The scene here is not what it is in places like San Diego and Colorado and Seattle, places like that where it’s already been established for over 10 years. So really, it’s just getting its feet under itself, and I think in the next four or five years you’re going to see breweries popping up left and right before you know it. I think the beer scene is growing and people more and more are getting accustomed to that, because there are stigmas attached to flavored beer or beers that aren’t just your everyday big-production beers.
So because people are getting used to it, do you think that contributes to this boom in craft beer and small breweries that we’ve seen lately?
Absolutely. I think that the more people try craft beer the more open they are, the more conscious they are of what is made locally; of what is made in a giant production facility that is just punching out millions of barrels of beer versus what’s made here by local business. People are just looking for what they enjoy drinking. It’s much more now enjoying one or two beers rather than pounding six beers of little to no flavor. I think as people try more craft beer it obviously adds to the craft beer scene and how open people are to trying new things. That’s really what it’s all about: trying new flavors and being adventurous, really.
What’s your favorite beer style?
I gravitate toward stouts and porters. I like darker beers. It’s weird because they have a lot of coffee notes to them, usually, and I don’t even drink coffee, but I somehow find myself drinking a stout or a porter when I’m given the option. Wheats are always good, especially being down here in South Florida, where it’s hot and it’s muggy and you really just want something to refresh yourself with. So those are usually a good go-to.
Beer and food pairings are popular now. If you had a stout, what would you like to pair that with?
Stouts pair well with smoked meats, darker meats, really. When you go with light beers they pair well with fish, chicken, things like that. I’ve done our brown ale with a barbecue burger. It’s interesting how much pairing flavors changes how the beer may taste because now there are more flavors in your mouth and there’s residual taste that you’re getting. It really changes the complexity of everything.
What does the rest of 2014 hold for Miami Brewing Company?
We’re really focused on just getting our beers out there more, you know? Every day we’re just looking for more accounts, more and more places to get our beer out and ramping up our experimenting with different flavors. So we’re really playing with what could be something that we do every year maybe for seasonal. We’re definitely looking for the right combinations, the right recipes, what we think could be long-term. Really, those are the two key things I think. We really want to be here for a long time making beer. It’s a fun business to be in and we really enjoy it, so it’s just about making something people will enjoy.
Is there anything else you want to mention about Miami Brewing Company?
We are very environmentally friendly. We don’t get the word out on that much, but we have solar panels on our roofs, we compost everything after it’s spent, we went with cans instead of bottles because of their environmentally-friendliness, better recycle-ability (I don’t even know if that’s a word). We have plans on installing a water treatment system. We’re really pushing being as environmentally friendly as possible, and as our brewing system grows, we want to incorporate that more. We’re looking at maybe solar-powered boil kettles, things like that. So we’re really keeping that in mind. That’s really something that we take pride in.