For years the Wynwood Arts District has been my safe haven of sorts in Miami—a street art-covered enclave far enough away from the bright lights and bikinis of South Beach. Many would argue that by the time I discovered Wynwood—my first visit was in early 2015—it was too late. “When we opened, I had friends who were artists, and this was almost four years ago, who were like, ‘Wynwood’s dead,’” says Adam Darnell, who opened Boxelder Craft Beer Market with his wife Nicole in 2014. The couple, who have worked at museums in New York and Miami, saw the up-and-coming neighborhoods as the perfect spot for their design-forward bottle shop and beer bar, but little did they know how quickly that neighborhood would change.
2014 was the year that Wynwood welcomed many of its most popular attractions—restaurants, bars, and hipster coffee shops—at the expense of the artist community that literally gave the area its color. The Wynwood I saw during a recent visit was vastly different from the one I saw four years ago, as the neighborhood prepares for the opening of its first hotel as well as new “micro-living” developments. Call it the cold, cruel grip of gentrification or just what happens when cities expand into their grittier edges, Wynwood is now cool (not like catching-The-National-at-a-free-set-on-a-random-Tuesday-night cool, but more like Vampire-Weekend-coming-back-from-the-dead-after-six-years cool). And with that coolness usually comes craft beer. Here are some of the best spots to pick up a pint in this burgeoning beer scene.
Zak the Baker
No, Zak the Baker is not a place that bakes bread and brews beer. It would be magical if it was, but you’ll have to settle for just the former. Zak Stern has been a staple of the neighborhood for the past five years. Since opening in—you guessed it—2014, the kosher bakery has moved to larger digs and began selling its breads and pastries at Whole Foods locations throughout southern Florida. A stop at the mothership is an essential way to start the day in Wynwood. The corner warehouse welcomes you with a wall of fresh loaves, with everything from baguettes to babka. Order at the counter before grabbing a seat overlooking the massive mixers and team of bakers shaping dough. I usually opt for fancy toast—topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese or roasted heirloom tomato and labane—and hibiscus lemonade.
Wynwood Brewing Company
One of Miami’s first breweries is also its most well-known—thanks in part to being recently acquired by the Craft Beer Alliance (CBA). Luis Brignoni and his father Luis “Pops” Brignoni Sr. opened Wynwood Brewing Company to pay tribute to their Puerto Rican heritage as well as their current hometown. That translates to a Caribbean Sour—brewed with fresh mango, pineapple, and passionfruit—served on a draft from a tap handle that looks like a spray paint can. One of the brewery’s most coveted beers is released every holiday season and mimics coquito, the drink often referred to as “Puerto Rican eggnog.” Coqui-to is a rum barrel-aged imperial milk stout finished with toasted coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Hopefully it’s one of the beers pegged for wider distribution through CBA.
Concrete Beach Brewery
Imagine the quintessential Florida brewery. You are probably picturing something similar to Concrete Beach. Sure, there’s no actual beach, but there is a large covered patio complete with a concrete bar. Half of the circular bar sits outside with the other inside, overlooking the glass-encased brewery and local art. If all this feels a bit predictable, the beer list is definitely not. Because even though the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees when I visited, the beers of choice were the Mussels from Brussels, a 10% ABV Belgian quad, or Sangre de Flor, an imperial chocolate and hibiscus porter. Of course, for those of us who aren’t used to slamming quads in the sunshine, the more sessionable options include a Pisco Sour Berliner weisse and slightly sweet rosé ale.
Boxelder Craft Beer Market
“We are drawn to labels that are awesome,” Adam Darnell says about his beer bar and bottle shop that, not surprisingly, looks a lot like an art gallery. Instead of pairings on the walls, shelves are lined with some of the sleekest beers he can get his hands on—think Stillwater Artisanal, To Øl, and Great Notion Brewing, among others. “It’s why we left everything simple in here, because we knew we were going to have these big shelves filled with all different labels.” It goes without saying that it’s a great place to grab a couple cans to-go, but opposite those fruitful shelves is a long wood bar pouring an ever-changing array of local options such as Gulf Stream Brewing’s pilsner or The Tank’s double dry-hopped IPA, alongside the occasional food pop-up featuring everything from bagel sandwiches to pizza.
J Wakefield Brewing
Thanks to its annual WakeFest Invitational and comic strip-covered taproom, J Wakefield Brewing remains the cool kid in town. (This time, our definition of cool means murals depicting Darth Vader drinking a cold one and Thanos’ gauntlet sitting behind the bar.) A garage door separates the boxy tamproom from a patio, which regularly welcomes food trucks. Inside, find hazebros pounding A Long Time Ago New England-style IPA. But it’s not all IPAs and baseball caps. The brewery specializes in a wide range of brews, including the Tank Tops and Squats saison and Making Whoopie imperial stout, which, if you can look past the industry-standard sexism in their labeling, are excellent beers..
“Gramps is a favorite of mine,” Darnell says about this Wynwood institution. “[Owner] Adam [Gersten] is from Miami—he’s as Flordian as you get. It’s a good place to have a good time. I know when I walk in there there’s going to be something awesome and weird.” “Weird” means it’s a bar that hosts the occasional drag show, record fair, or dance party, all set to a rotating array of live music. The space is just as eclectic as its entertainment lineup, with a covered patio and dance floor filled with hand-painted tables and benches as well as a DJ booth protected by a thatched roof. Inside is a bit cozier, with a large bar slinging—as the orange facade advertises—“air conditioning cold beer cocktails” alongside arcade games.
It’s late, you’ve been drinking beer all day in the Miami heat, and you’re most likely semi-ravenous. Enter Kush, where beer and burgers get equal billing. Chances are good, if you arrive anytime after sundown, there will be a wait to get a table in the intimate bar. Luckily, there’s an even smaller bar next door—which is basically a closet filled with sixtels and mismatched stools—that acts as a waiting room. Flip through the beer binder and wait until your table is ready. It’s worth the wait for Old Bay-dusted alligator bites and the selection of burgers that range from the classic to the spicy fried onion-topped Angry Chef. Needless to say, this all pairs very well with beer—from nearby Jupiter’s Civil Society to something off the fancy “reserve list”—but at this point, maybe ask for some water.