Talking Craft Beer in Miami with Gravity Brewlab
You might not have heard of Gravity Brewlab yet, but that’s about to change. Living up to its moniker with their creative experiments on classic craft beer styles, they are slowly but surely gaining the attention they deserve. With plans to open a top-of-the line gastropub in Miami’s famed Wynwood district by the end of 2014, GBL has been blowing up South Florida’s idea of craft beers for anyone lucky enough to grab a taste at one of their events.
I got a chance to talk with Diego Ganoza, the mad scientist behind it all. If a university offered a Ph.D. in craft beer studies, this guy would be the Dean of the school. He knows his stuff, and I was fortunate enough to discuss craft beer with him. Here we talk about what’s next for the brewer, some of the excellent brews, food pairings, and what style a self-proclaimed “beer geek” calls his favorite.
First of all, tell me a little about Gravity Brewlab.
Right now we’re in the very beginning stages. We’ve been working on this concept and really trying to put our name out there for about a year and a half or so. Right now we’re working on taking it to the next level and not just doing the chef events and pairings that we’ve been doing so far, but to actually put up our brick and mortar and get ready to distribute on a wholesale level. We’ve hit a couple of snags in location because the city of Miami tends to be — not just a little tricky — but the concept of a brewery is still fairly new to the area. They don’t really know yet 100% of the legal procedures and what you can and can’t do and where. So it’s been a little bit of time, money, energy and leg work in trying to get everything figured out. We found a location and we’re hoping that that will be the home where we put our roots down.
When do you think Gravity Brewlab will be up and running?
We’re hoping to have production up and running sometime by mid-fall, if things go well.
Let me ask you about the craft beer you’re brewing. I see that you’re brewing a couple of sour beers. I know that’s kind of a trend now. Where did that idea come from?
Well, before working on this whole brewery concept and trying to be a brewer, basically I was a massive beer geek. I enjoyed beer. I collected beer like people collect wine. Anyway, long story short, I’ve been into sour beer for a long, long time. It is becoming more of a trend nowadays, you start seeing it a little more. But it’s been stuff that’s been highly sought after for a while by people who got a chance to try it. It’s not a style that’s really common in the United States, but when people get to try it they really get hooked. It’s a style that I’ve really enjoyed for the past several years, and I’m lucky enough to work with some brewers that are experienced in the style. So we figured, “Hey, let’s try this out and see what kind of response we get from people locally.”
Actually, one of my coworkers got to try one of the Gravity Brew Lab ciders. She said it was a cherry cider. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, we try to mix it up a little bit. We want to – not to be overly officious – but we want to get a couple styles in there that are not necessarily just craft beers. And cider’s one of those things that we enjoy. Specifically we enjoy making this cider out of 100% tart cherry, and that gives it like a natural sweet acidity. We kind of do a basque-style cider, as in Northern Spain or Southern France, where ciders are usually barrel-aged. It gives you the kind of yeast that certain wine makers are afraid of, but certain beer makers love because you get such a depth of flavor and a lot more stuff going on in your product. So we let the barrel do its thing, we put it in the barrel for a couple of months, let the natural sugars interact with the yeast in there and then we get something that’s a little tart, a lot of cherry flavor, some vintage notes from the wine barrel that we use, and all of these flavors and notes that people may not be used to but they’re kind of in the background and they’re very interesting.
So I’ve seen that your projected food menu at the brick and mortar location of Gravity Brewlab is pretty elaborate. Do you think the rise in craft beer has changed the nature of bar food?
I think that would go hand in hand. If I have to use an example out of Miami, there’s a spawning of gastropubs and restaurants that kind of popped up maybe three or four years ago. Places where people are really bringing in outside experience, stuff they’ve seen maybe in Chicago, maybe Europe, New York and stuff like that. You’re really seeing people that are driving their menus to pair with beer, and not just regular beer, but craft beer, beer with different flavors. So we took it a step further and said “Let’s try and build our menu around our beer directly. Let’s try and make beer that will pair with the menu, make a menu that will pair with our beer. Try to do something very homogenous. And it’s really cool to do this at a time when Miami is kind of discovering the possibilities behind beer and food.
How would you describe the craft beer scene in South Florida?
I would describe it as young and highly adventurous. It’s really, really, really exciting to be part of it, because they’re just discovering what it is, what’s going on right now, that may have already happened in other places. And every city has its own personality, its own culture, and its own way of adopting things and making it their own. So being at ground zero when it’s starting to happen is super exciting. You can kind of reach for your own style, reach for your own personality in beer.
You described yourself as a “beer geek.” What’s your favorite style?
Oh that’s a tough one. For me it’s almost like, “What am I currently obsessed with?” A couple of months ago I was really obsessed with English Bitters, ESB’s they’re called, and right now I’m kind of back into Belgian Lambics. That’s something I’m really trying to – I don’t want to say replicate – going back to what we were saying before, how South Florida really tries to make it its own, I would say I’m trying to make a “Flambic:” a Florida lambic. Over in Belgium you have what you would call a cornerstone, you have a Kriek, which is a lambic which has been infused with cherry. I want to do something kind of like that down here, so we’ve been working with a lot of the micro flora, a lot of the wild yeast, and some of the different fruits that have found a home down here in Homestead and the Redlands.
Is there anything else you want to mention about Gravity Brewlab?
The only thing I’d add is that we have a lot of really cool stuff in the works, and we’re going to take the brewery concept you’ve seen in Miami and try and take it to a different level, especially with the combination of food being available, and not being only beer. We want to do something really, really different and really cool with it.