By now the cat's out of the bag on Wynwood's newest crafty member, Concrete Beach Brewing. It's joining the ranks of places like Wynwood Brewing Company and J. Wakefield Brewery, officially making Wynwood Miami's ultimate craft beer neighborhood. We spoke to Social Hall manager Jesse Morris about the new brewery (a concept from former Magic Hat owner Alan Newman and a team of passionate beer aficionados), Concrete's goals, future offerings and more.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what the "Social Hall manager" does.
the hope is that we can really make people feel like they're a part of the community and that we are a part of our community and help people come into this really wacky, cool world that is better beer
I am a very lucky individual who stumbled blindly into his dream field about ten years ago. I've done just about everything you can do in the beer industry from managing bars to street sales to building a craft beer division at a very large wholesaler to marketing and a little bit of brewing. And as the Social Hall manager I actually get to use all of those different parts of my past. Essentially, my job and the Social Hall's job is to provide the best possible experience that we can for anybody who wants to come and learn about beer or wants to learn about Concrete Beach or wants to be involved in the growing Miami craft beer scene. A big, big focus for me personally and for the Social Hall professionally is going to be education. I'm a native Floridian and I'm very proud of my state, of how far we've come in the last few years in our knowledge and passion both related to craft beer, but we've still got a long way to go to get where I think we can be. I'm super excited to have an area where everyone who works in the Social Hall is going to have a continual education program with me, they're going to be brewing small batch beer about 15 gallons at a time with me, hopefully once a month. We may not every serve it to anyone but ourselves, it's just a learning tool for myself and my staff. The Social Hall when you first walk in will just look like any other bar, but the hope is that we can really make people feel like they're a part of the community and that we are a part of our community and help people come into this really wacky, cool world that is better beer and help them learn what it is that they like and don't like.
Talk to me about the Social Hall space.
Our bar is circular. The actual bar itself is a circle and the Social Hall is really the whole environment where we have seating and you'll be able to drink and hopefully meet new friends and learn something new. The bar is circular honestly because it goes half in and half out and that just seemed like a sensible and cool shape.
Around how many people does the space fit?
Around 143. That's maximum capacity at any one time. We do have the ability to pull special event permits if we wanted to do something big inside the brew house itself, but in the actual brewery its more of a small scale thing and I'm excited about that because I want to make sure that everybody gets attention. If you're at a larger bar - if you're like myself, you're probably drinking whiskey on the rocks - it doesn't really matter if you have somebody answer you're questions, but if we're going to have really strange, weird or new beers on draft, I want my staff to be available to answer people's questions about those beers and not be so weeded that they don't have two minutes to talk to somebody about what the difference is between a sour beer or an Irish red.
How did Concrete Beach brewery come to be?
Miami is a city that has a lot of really interesting and vibrant people, but really not a lot going on in the beer scene
So, we are a new project by our leader, Mr. Alan Newman, who previously operated and owned the Magic Hat Brewing Company for a number of years. I actually worked for Alan at Magic Hat and he's awesome. He's got really cool vision and loves culture and had an opportunity to open a new brewery and was looking around the country seeing where there was opportunity and Miami is a city that has a lot of really interesting and vibrant people, but really not a lot going on in the beer scene. When Miami was first scoped out on our end as an area to open a brewery, the craft beer scene in Miami specifically was under 2%, so less than two out of every 100 beers sold were craft beers.
if we can help people understand that beer doesn't just have to be pale, fizzy, yellow liquid in a glass then they'll find something they really enjoy
But Miami's a very large city, the people here like food, we like flavor and craft beer tends to be related to those two items. The thinking is that if we can help people understand that beer doesn't just have to be pale, fizzy, yellow liquid in a glass then they'll find something they really enjoy, something new, something exciting. I think that's really why Concrete Beach is here. Now, the name Concrete Beach is related to the juxtaposition; we're in Miami, we're in this beautiful tropical paradise, but our brewery is in Wynwood, which is its own form of beauty. Just walking around and seeing all the amazing art that's everywhere is really breathtaking. So, we're kind of riding the line between the tropical paradise and then the concrete paradise and that's where the name came from.
Wynwood is such a great location for breweries now.
it's a really great and collaborative community down here, which is just a tremendous thing
Yeah. I actually am super excited to be in the Wynwood neighborhood. We have our friends at Wynwood Brewing Company just a few blocks down from us, we have the guys over at J. Wakefield who are awesome people. The other direction, we've got kids getting ready to open up Fourth Age, also in Wynwood. And what's awesome is that all of us meet up once a month and talk about the industry. We talk about what can we do to better the beer scene in Miami, how can we help each other... it's a really great and collaborative community down here, which is just a tremendous thing.
So, what can you do to better the scene down here in Miami?
It's a really cool experience to learn that other flavors can exist in beer
Well, my personal opinion on what can be done to better it ... honestly, I think it's just an educational thing. Beer is delicious and it's been around forever, it's the oldest beverage that we have. And I don't think it's for lack of interest, I think a lot of people, specifically in Florida - I watched it happen in Tampa, I managed one of the first craft breweries in Tampa, where I'm from - people just don't know, they don't know that beer could taste like blueberries or cobbler or coffee with cream in it, they just assume beer is this light yellow liquid that kind of tastes like corn and if it got warm at all it was horrible. And that's certainly a style of beer, but that's not all that beer is. I think with breweries like Funky Buddha, breweries like J. Wakefield, Wynwood Brewing, Concrete Beach, we're going to be able to show people a side of beer here in Miami that they've never really seen before. I know from first hand experience, when I first started drinking I didn't drink craft beer, I didn't know what it was. My first beer ever was a Michelob Ultra and I was like, "yeah! I'm the classiest man on the planet," and I remember distinctly the first craft beer that one of my friends gave me, it was from a brewery out of Colorado and it's still one of my favorite beers, I still drink it regularly because every time I drink it, I'm transported back to nine years ago when I first had it and went, "oh, this is beer?" It's a really cool experience to learn that other flavors can exist in beer. So really, I think that's all Miami needs. Miami does fantastically well with pumping up their own local scene. Everybody I've ever met or spoken to in Miami is really proud of being in Miami or from Miami or working here in Miami. It's beautiful. I think if people just learn a bit more about beer there's no reason why everyone won't want to drink craft as well.
What kind of beer will you be producing?
We as a company, as a group, are firmly committed to the idea that the local market here in Miami is going to tell us what we should be brewing for them.
I think it's a little too early to say that. We're going to start with two for sure. We have Rica, which is a wheat IPA and we have Stiltsville, which is a European pilsner, but we use big, juicy American hops in it and it's got this beautiful citrus, tropical fruit aroma and flavor to it. After those two, we're going to see what people in Miami ask for. That's another part of the Social Halls role is our head brewer Chris McGrath and myself and whoever else is working are going to come up with weird ideas. We may brew just one keg of it, or 20 or 40, and we'll put it on draft and see what people think. We as a company, as a group, are firmly committed to the idea that the local market here in Miami is going to tell us what we should be brewing for them. I'm a huge fan of the style of beer Flanders red, it's a beer that I wouldn't expect someone who's only ever had, in my case, a Michelob Ultra before to like it. So, I don't think something like that would take off, but I could be totally wrong and that's why we're hesitant to say, "oh, these are the beers we're going to brew." We've got to start somewhere, so we put a space in the ground and we're going to go from there and whatever people say they're interested in, I think we'll be willing to try.
What are your production capabilities?
we actually have a lab in our brewery so that we can make sure we make a consistent product every single time
We have a 20 barrel, four vessel brew house. It's like mind numbingly beautiful. I was uncomfortable being around it because I tend to be very clumsy and break things and I was concerned that I would ruin it. So that's our brew house. We currently have about five to seven thousand barrel maximum capacity, but we have plans to add tanks and add fermentation space to bring us up to about 15 thousand barrels annually. To put that into perspective, one barrel is equivalent to two of the big kegs. But the really awesome thing that both myself and Chris are very excited about is that we actually have a lab in our brewery so that we can make sure we make a consistent product every single time. That's a big plus for me because I feel like if people are learning about beer and they go to a bar and order a Stiltsville, they put their $6 to $8 down on the table and they get a Stiltsville because they tried it once and they loved it, it should be the same beer every time. Our lab is really going to let us dial in. If a beer's not what we intend it to be, in our eyes that's a defect, that's something wrong with the beer. It may be still a delicious beer, there may
there's nothing we love more than to talk to other beer geeks about what we're going
be nothing chemically or biologically incorrect with it, but if it's not what we meant it to be then it didn't come out right. So having a lab there is just a tremendous sigh of relief I think so we can make sure that we're delivering the right thing every single time. That's the basis of our brewery. If anybody who is reading this article is curious about brewing, I highly encourage them to come down to the Social Hall when we open sometime this fall and talk to Randy Jensen (assistant brewer), talk to me, we'll be doing tours, and the three of us are beer geeks so there's nothing we love more than to talk to other beer geeks about what we're going.
What are you most excited about with the upcoming opening?
The thing I am most excited about is totally self serving and just utterly selfish... it's just locking the doors after our very first shift, turning down most of the lights, sitting down with my staff at our brand new bar and pouring myself my first pint of Stiltsville and recapping the day. I can't wait for that to happen.