Raise a glass to West Palm’s booming craft beer scene

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By AARON WORMUSaaron_bio_pic
Exclusive to Palms West Monthly
Posted Sept. 5, 2018

In last month’s column, I covered Grandview Public Market and the evolution of the Warehouse District into a new center of social life in West Palm Beach. I hope you were able to swing by and enjoy some of the sights and sounds.

Steam Horse Brewing had just opened in the Warehouse District as I submitted the column, so while they got an honorable mention I didn’t get a chance to write about the newest of the many breweries in West Palm Beach’s booming craft beer scene.

Steam Horse Brewing is the creation of entrepreneurs Fran Andrewlevich and Matt Webster, who are no strangers to the West Palm Beach brewing scene. Fran was the original brewmaster at Brewzzi, the classic brew pub that anchored the second floor of CityPlace from 1997 to 2014. 

He put the “brew” in Brewzzi at a time when craft beer was rare in South Florida, and all but unheard of in sleepy West Palm Beach. Fran went on to dominate the north county brewing scene by founding Tequesta Brewing Company in Jupiter, then Twisted Trunk Brewing on PGA Boulevard, before heading back to West Palm Beach with Steam Horse Brewing.

“The beer scene has changed since Brewzzi, we have a more educated consumer,” says Fran. “The growth is crazy.” 

Fran credits West Palm Beach’s change in demographics to new development and the influx of people moving into downtown. 

The brewery backs up to the soon-to-open Steel Tie Spirits Distillery. This railway-themed distillery, which will produce Black Coral Rum, is located in the area’s oldest warehouse at 1615 Clare Ave. The Dade County Pine rafters are in the process of being restored, a tasting room is being built and, when complete, it will have a 2,700-gallon distillation capacity. 

Two blocks away from the Warehouse District, at 1142 Old Okeechobee Rd., you’ll find Ookapow Brewing, which bills itself as West Palm Beach’s first nanobrewery. Its focus is small batch handcrafted artisan ales with 15 taps continually rotating a selection of ales.

As we travel deeper into the business district we come to 1027 N. Florida Mango, where we find Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks. When it opened in 2015 with the help of a GoFundMe project, it was South Florida’s first ciderworks and the city’s first commercial alcohol producer. The tasting room opened soon after.

Accomplice founder and executive cidermaker Matt Stetson says educating consumers is a big part of his job, an especially challenging task the cider-brewer faces in steamy South Florida. 

“We have no apple culture, so we’re educating people and creating an interest in cider,” says Matt. “Many of our regulars have moved to South Florida from up north and miss the cider that is plentiful there.”

Matt and the Accomplice team are working on expanding their production facility to include beer. They will start brewing a mainstream product using standard grains, and an alternative product which is gluten free.

“We’re innovators, that’s what we do,” Matt adds.

Accomplice was the first of many breweries to open in West Palm Beach. After it opened, the city revised its ordinances to allow for commercial brewing outside of general commercial areas. This change paved the way for breweries to open within the downtown area, triggering huge interest in serving our downtown market.

West Palm Beach Brewery and Wine Vault opened its doors at 332 Evernia St. in December 2017. The location couldn’t be better – right in the heart of downtown. Just a short walk from both Clematis Street and CityPlace.

The West Palm Brewery build-out is absolutely fantastic. What used to be a crossfit gym is now buzzing with people looking to taste one of brewmaster Joel Kodner’s fantastic beers or a wine from John Pankauski’s private label. You can have your libation paired with one of the many delicious pizzas and small plates that come out of its open Intracoastal Kitchen.

The delicious fare can be enjoyed while you watch a game on one of the many big-screen TVs inside or on its front patio area.

And even more breweries are on the way! Here’s a taste of what’s opening soon:

• Civil Society Brewing, which is expanding from its Abacoa location to a warehouse currently under renovation right off S. Dixie Highway.

• American Craft Aleworks will open on the 200 block of Clematis Street at the location formerly home to Bar Louie.

• On Northwood Road, Skunkworts Brewing Concern will open on the street’s 500 block.

With this tremendous growth in the craft beer scene over just the last three years, area brewers have formed a brewers guild. So we can look forward to even more growth, options, education, “beer tourism” and maybe even an “ale trail” in the near future.

Here’s this month’s homework: Expand your palette by trying out some of the above-mentioned breweries and save the date for Accomplice Brewery’s 3rd anniversary and expanded brewery grand opening on Saturday, Nov. 3!

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