Miami’s best-known beer soon will be brewed in New Hampshire.
Wynwood Brewing, which opened in the Miami arts neighborhood in 2013 as Miami’s first full-production brewery, has signed a deal to outsource the brewing of its two most popular beers — La Rubia blonde ale and the prize-winning Pops Porter — to Craft Brew Alliance’s large-scale brewery in Portsmouth, NH. The deal also includes Wynwood Brewing selling a 24.5 percent minority stake to the publicly traded CBA.
Most of the beer brewed there will go toward fulfilling Miami-Dade’s unquenchable demand for Wynwood Brewing’s beer, owner Luis G. Brignoni said. It also means Wynwood Brewing can dedicate its Miami brewery to making a wider variety of beers that require more time and skill, including barrel-aged beers and limited and special releases.
“This is what success looks like — lot more people are going to have access to their beers,” said CBA CEO Andy Thomas, whose Portalnd, Oregon-based company has four breweries around the country and owns the brands Kona, Redhook and Widmer Brothers Brewing.
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The deal, which will be finalized in early 2017, means La Rubia and Pops Porter (named for Brignoni’s father) will be much more widely available in Miami-Dade County, where Brignoni said he had to turn away restaurants, bars and grocery stores that wanted to carry his beer. CBA will brew on a 100-barrel system, massive compared with the 15-barrel system that Brignon said has kept him from being able to put Wywnood Brewing on more tap handles throughout Miami. In practical terms, that means each batch can go from filling fewer than 5,000 bottles to more than 30,000.
“How long could I turn people away?” Brignoni said. “Pops and I knew we were going to have to expand.”
The injection of cash from selling a minority stake to CBA means Wynwood Brewing can reinvest in its own brewery and add more staff, Brignoni said. Selling less than 25 percent means they can still classify themselves as an independent brewery, according to the Brewers Association. CBA will handle the sale, marketing and distribution of Wynwood’s beers through Anheuser-Busch’s network, since InBev owns a minority stake in CBA.
Beer lovers will look at this new partnership in one of two ways — and both are true.
One means that all but a fraction of the two beers that put Wynwood Brewing on the map will be brewed 1,500 miles away, albeit with Brignoni overseeing the process and approving every batch. Pops Porter, which won the country’s most prestigious award in 2014 (a gold medal at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival) will be brewed by someone else’s hand.
“We brew a lot of beer … We’ve learned how to help people scale up the recipe to a good size and still retain the taste,” Thomas said.
On the other hand, it means that Wynwood’s brewing system will be freed up for Brignoni to experiment with new beers that may go on to win the hearts and taste buds of Miami’s craft beer lovers — and other craft beer awards, if Brignoni’s history is any indication. He said he plans to experiment with beers that play better in warm weather, such as the light, tart goses, and to expand production of stronger barrel-aged beers such as their Father Francisco.
“We have a long list of beers we want to brew,” Brignoni said. “The people in Miami are going to see a lot more beers from Wynwood.”
The two sides are currently brewing test batches of the beers to ensure that they are as close to identical to the current La Rubia and Pops Porters, Brignoni said. The first New-Hampshire brewed Wywnood beers won’t hit the market until around April.
This partnership also means Brignoni has put off thoughts of expanding into a larger brewery in South Florida. When he does, he said he would prefer to expand in Wynwood, where he grew up, even though it would be more expensive than building a larger facility in Doral or Kendall, where other craft breweries are popping up.
“Our plan is to deepen our roots here in Miami,” Brignoni said.