“We’re maybe in a handful of people focusing on these types of beers in the whole state.”
That’s one of the first things Marco Leyte-Vidal tells me about his forthcoming brewery, Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, when I ask about how it will fit into his local beer scene. That might not sound surprising, especially given that Unseen Creatures’ focus—oak-fermented wild ales—aren’t really ubiquitous anywhere.
But in a state the size of Florida, he says it’s “nerve-racking” to be one of the few breweries to introduce Brett- and bacteria-driven beers to new audiences. Leyte-Vidal mentions St. Petersburg’s Green Bench and Tarpon Springs’ St. Somewhere as breweries also centered on mixed-fermentation beers, and soon he’ll have another one in the fold: Odd Breed Wild Ales.
The two breweries-in-planning certainly know each other and have shared beers. They’re located less than an hour’s drive apart: Odd Breed in Pompano Beach and Unseen Creatures in North Miami. Both plan to focus on mixed-fermentation beers aged in oak, though Unseen Creatures will also produce some “clean” beers including a pale ale, a pilsner and a saison. Unseen Creatures, co-founded by Marco and his wife Vicky Leyte-Vidal, hopes to open in early 2018, and Odd Breed, co-founded by Matt Manthe and Dan Naumko, shoots for a July 2017 opening.
“Most of the breweries in our area are very new and pretty small. The breweries that have been open for four years are the old breweries,” says Odd Breed brewer and co-founder Matt Manthe, echoing Leyte-Vidal’s sentiment. “One of our obstacles is consumer education. There aren’t many breweries in Florida like ours.”
But Leyte-Vidal is optimistic that there is a growing audience for his rustic creations, especially because he emphasizes subtlety and drinkability in his wild ales.
“It’s been encouraging that as I share my beers, people are saying ‘This is balanced,’ but a year ago people would have said, ‘This isn’t hoppy enough or sour enough,'” he says. ” I don’t ever want to be the hoppiest beer, and I don’t want someone to pick up our fruited sours and say ‘Wow, that tastes like a raspberry.’ I want it to taste like a beer influenced by fermentation on raspberry.”
Both Unseen Creatures and Odd Breed give a nod to J. Wakefield Brewing, a Miami brewery that (after much fanfare) opened in early 2015 and is responsible for introducing the world to Florida weisses and helping popularized heavily fruited, kettle-soured beers.
“J. Wakefield has opened people’s minds to sour beer down here,” says Leyte-Vidal. “If you looked at Miami four or five years ago, it was a Corona and Bud Light town. I could go to the store and find Cantillon and Drie [Fonteinen] lambics sitting on shelves. Wakefield opened people’s minds to it, but my beers will definitely be different. His are more bold and assertive and lactic and fruit-forward; I think mine will be more subtle. But I’m certainly thankful for him opening people’s minds to this.”
“Unfortunately, I feel a lot of people call our beers sour beers because they like that term, but to me, that gives the impression that sourness is our goal,” says Manthe. “Nothing against what J. Wakefield does, but we prefer to try to get a bit more complexity and dimension in our beer. Even though we make some fruited beers, the fruit is a balancing component or adds a bit of flavor, it doesn’t drown out its yeast character.”
Drinkers will be able to get a taste of Odd Breed and Unseen Creatures’ beers when their taprooms open. Both plan to sell the majority of their beer from their taprooms, with only a small percentage reaching local distribution. If you can’t wait to try the beers, there are a couple options: Unseen Creatures hopes to embark on some upcoming collaborations, and members of Odd Breed’s Rare Bottle Club will have the early intel on new and exclusive beers once the brewery is open.
“We appreciate taking our time. We’ve been using our own mixed culture for about the last four years, and we’re pretty happy with what it’s evolved into,” says Manthe. “This type of beer, to Dan and I, is the ultimate type of beer, and in our opinion, the most complex. There are so many different variables that are difficult to control. There are some variables you want to control, others you decide aren’t as important, and some you realize that you just can’t control.”