You’ll be able to sample some 150 craft beers from 60 breweries, including year-round and spring and summer drafts, some of which aren’t regularly available in South Florida.
“We still don’t know which beers they will bring. Some spring drafts won’t be out until March 1. Every brewery has its own schedule,” says Tony Albelo, organizer of Sprung! Craft Beer Festival and its sister event, Grovetoberfest, which takes place in Peacock Park in October.
Some craft brewers produce only enough volume to sell only on their own premises, and to donate on occasion for off-site special events. Into this category falls Titanic Brewing Co. in Coral Gables. Other craft brewers make enough that you can find it for sale in certain grocery and liquor stores.
The best selection of craft beers in South Florida is at Milam’s Market in Coconut Grove, which often stocks 100 to 200 different craft beers; Whole Foods Market; and Total Wine & More. Their selections vary with the seasons, and with product availability.
What is a craft beer?
“The definition of craft beer is changing,” Abelo says. “Once craft brewers made a limited amount of production.”
That definition would preclude calling Samuel Adams from The Boston Beer Company a craft beer, even though it is made from a 19th Century family recipe. The firm started as a small craft brewer and now is among the largest such breweries.
The following definition of a craft brewer comes directly from the Brewers Association:
An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.
Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer’s brands) or has at least 50 percent of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
Craft beer factoids
According to the Brewers Association:
• Craft brewers are small brewers.
• The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
• Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
• Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.
• Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
• Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
• The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.
Do you remember when Coors beer was a craft beer that was hard to find east of Colorado? If you lived in the east or midwest, you asked friends driving west for the summer to bring back a special treat: six-packs of Coors.
In recent years the number of small local breweries has grown and continues to grow, though it still doesn’t exceed the pre-Prohibition (1920-1933) total. Before prohibition, communities with caves and a large German population had the largest concentration of small breweries. St. Louis, for example, once had about 100 small brewers.
Where to learn beer making
Most craft beer makers start out as home hobbyists. You can learn how in classes taught by Professor Barry Gump at Florida International University’s Beer Academy on the Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami Beach. Two of his students, Matthew Weintraub and Zhi Long Yang, officers of B.R.E.W. FIU club, will join participating chefs to lead food and beer pairing discussions at the Sprung! Craft Beer Festival.
Note: Click on the "Subscribe" button below to receive an email each time the Miami Food and Drink Examiner publishes a new article.