Enter a nondescript warehouse near the junction of the Palmetto Expressway and Bird Road in Miami and you'll smell something like supercharged cream of wheat. Move in a few steps and you'll find Nick Armada, a 31-year-old man of average stature with salt-and-pepper hair, stirring a kettle of grain mash ever so diligently.
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"When you're not paying attention, you'll get a boil-over easy," he says. "You get a boil-over and you lose two gallons right off the bat."
Mixing and mashing the wackiest flavor combinations is all part of homebrewing. And Armada's business, CerveTech, is the eye of the new beer brewing storm that's overtaking South Florida (read more on all the new local beers here). His
Brown Spice took the Best Florida Brew award at the New Times Beerfest this year, another step in his effort to convert regular folks to the sophisticated art of handcrafting small batches of beer.
Opened by Armada this past September, CerveTech is a place where, for a small fee, folks can learn how to boil wort, add yeast, bottle, and wait -- in just the right proportions. After helping found B.R.E.W. FIU -- a club at Florida International University's North Campus for people interested in beer -- Armada wanted to spread his expertise further.
Membership, which starts at $25 per month, allows access to the warehouse on 74th Court and use of all the brewing equipment: kettles, fermenting jars, taps, propane burners, kegerators, and a freezer. For $25 more, members receive ingredients such as barley, hops, and malt -- enough to brew a five-gallon batch of beer, which is equal to about 54 bottles. And $100 per month buys all the fixings for three five-gallon batches of varying flavors.
So far, 25 people have joined CerveTech. And they have crafted many a strange brew. Three members -- Danny Morales, Christopher Campos, and Diego Ramirez -- created a flan-flavored beer that tastes like a caramel cream ale.
Wacky? I do a lot of that," Armada says. -- David Minsky