J. Wakefield Brewing
Florida’s craft beer fans might be perplexed when they discover that Miami’s J. Wakefield Brewing is one of the world’s best new breweries. For them, JWB beers have been in demand since 2010, when batches of Ananas pineapple kölsch and Dragonfruit Passion Fruit Berliner Weiss were the talk of Cigar City Brewing Co.’s Hunahpu’s Day festival. But facts are facts: Those premier brews, crafted by then-homebrewer Jonathan Wakefield, were made on Cigar City’s pilot system when a location of his own was but a twinkle in Johnny’s eye.
The dream wasn’t long deferred. Wakefield continued to brew at home and occasionally at Cigar City, earning acclaim for his creative sour beers made with Floridian fruits.
“John very quickly became well known in the homebrew circuit and from going to festivals,” says Alex Gutierrez, JWB’s marketing director. “His name was known worldwide before he even operated an actual brewery.”
Wakefield eventually parlayed the popularity of his fruit-forward ales into a campaign on CrowdBrewed (KickStarter, but for beer industry folk) that reached its initial goal of $55,000 within just 30 hours. Jonathan settled on a location in the funky, art gallery- and thrift store-spangled Wynwood District in Miami and kicked open the doors in January 2015.
While the space is undeniably awesome, dressed floor-to-ceiling with murals drawn by local artists depicting Miami’s diverse culture as well as scenes and characters from Star Wars (Wakefield is a Wampa-sized Star Wars nerd; even the brewery’s fermentation tanks–Tatooine, Coruscant, Dagobah, Hoth–are named after planets in a galaxy far, far away), the draw for craft beer fans has always been Jonathan’s beers. His Florida Weisses, specifically.
If you’re familiar with that term, Jonathan Wakefield is probably the reason. The emerging style, characterized by post-fermentation fruit additions that add sweetness—and head-turning hues like radioactive green and burn-your-retinas pink–to a tart wheat beer base has become emblematic of south Floridian craft beer, and while he didn’t invent the Florida Weisse, it’s safe to say Wakefield perfected it. Two examples of JWB-brewed Florida Weisses–the aforementioned DFPF and Miami Madness, brewed with mango, guava and passion fruit–currently hold the top two spots on Ratebeer’s list of the best Berliner weisses in the world.
That popularity has enabled JWB to triple its production in less than a year; the brewery’s now able to pump out close to 3,000 barrels annually and has already outgrown its 5,400 square-foot space in Wynwood. The search for a larger production facility, Gutierrez says, is on. Packaging is also on Wakefield’s agenda. So far, most of the bottles released have been exclusive for “OG Society” members, the generous few who pledged $300 during Wakefield’s CrowdBrewed campaign. The two releases made available to the general public have been limited to just 300-500 bottles–nowhere near enough to satisfy demand. Rolling out regular production of bottled beers–or cans, if the brewery can find a company to manufacture lining that can withstand the acidity of JWB’s Florida Weisses–is a major goal for this year, Gutierrez says.
Packaged or not, there are plenty of reason to make the trip to Miami to visit JWB outside the highly ranked house brews. A trip to Aberdeen, Scotland, where Wakefield spent a few days with the boys at BrewDog, will yield a collaboration barleywine later this year. A starfruit- and kumquat-kissed Berliner created with Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing is also in the works, and Wakefield just put the finishing touches on a collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing that will combine the coffee and cacao nib additions for which the Danish gypsy brewer is known with Wakefield’s weisse expertise.