It was a great night. The first of the Craft Commander & Boxelder Live Conversation series and the debut of a collaboration beer with JWB. Our guest, John Wakefield. Large build, long hair, big beard, a brewer. A guy who raised almost $111,000 in just under two months through his Crowd Brewed campaign. A brewer that had the number one sour beer and number 5 berliner weisse in 2013 according to Rate Beer, without even being open. It's something that has had me mystified. Only, not really. The Florida-weisse phenomenon is something that JWB is out in front of - leading the charge with local flavors that are inherently Miami. Allowing a traditional style to find new life as something different.
JWB is tucked away in on a one-way street in Wynwood, one of Miami's fastest growing neighborhoods. A neighborhood driven by art and culture and now beer. Once inside, the brewery displays John's favorite things, Star Wars and Marvel. Colorful walls match the beers - a contrast to the quiet and reserved brewer.
We met up for our conversation at Boxelder Craft Beer Market, just down the street from the brewery. The bar hosted a JWB tap takeover which featured "Let the Wookie Win" a take on JWB's la nada (a RIS), treated with cacao nibs, vanilla, and chipotle peppers. Smooth, sweet up front, followed by roast and slight bitterness, followed by a tingle from the heat in your throat. A real interesting combination of flavors, smells, and the mouthfeel to support them. It's what JWB has been about, pushing the boundaries of what has been done before, focusing on huge aggressive flavors, and making sure that if a beer is advertising certain flavors, you've got them and they're balanced. It sold out almost immediately.
The Florida-weisse is a new phenomenon. The style has become JWB's calling card. A berlinerweisse with fruit added into fermentation - often times local fruit. It gives a sense of place to the beer and gives a wide array of smells and colors to the beer not achieved before with the style. Sure, Berliners traditionally have had syrups added to them in the glass, but why not create a beer that will ferment with fruit and allow for levels of complexity and "terroir" that the style never had? The first big Floridaweisse JWB produced was DFPF, a beer brewed at Cigar City and which served as a huge "I'm here" for the brewery. Dragon fruit and passion fruit. Funk. Sour. Refreshing. Tropical. Miami. The color is beautiful and the rest of the experience is just as wonderful. This night, we were lucky enough to have a couple growlers show up for the crowd, Boxelder poured the beer into tasting size glasses and the crowd pounced. It was great that we could share the beer prior to its release and that Boxelder and JWB served it for free on a first come first serve basis.
CPA turned brewer. It's a story that keeps repeating itself. Man (or woman) makes a good living in "professional" world; gets tired of "professional" world; is given a home-brew kit by an unsuspecting spouse; obsesses over home brewing; tells unsuspecting spouse "remember that paycheck? well, time to say good-bye to it for a while, I'm starting a brewery". Oh the look on unsuspecting spouse's face must be priceless. An innocent gift turns into an all consuming life event. In 2007, John was given a home brew kit and the rest is history. Soon came DFPF, collaborations with Stone, Cycle brewing, lines that wrapped around festival grounds, and we're not even officially open yet. It's a level of regard from the fans that rarely comes, let alone so early on. It's a boost to the burgeoning Miami craft beer community. The more attention the better. Miami is growing and the JWB Florida-weisse craze is only helping.
We talked all things JWB, and Miami beer, but most importantly and closest to my heart, we talked Star Wars and how Han Solo has influenced the beer. Seriously. It's an attitude. After all, the guy shot first - get that straight. Walking around the brewery, Star Wars is at the forefront. Han's confidence and "I'll do it my way" attitude permeate the way of being at the brewery and have inevitably affected the beers that we've come to enjoy. We hope you had a good time. May the force be with you.