Islamorada Beer Company to Open Second Location in Fort Pierce

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The craft beer in mainland South Florida is a growing industry, but we mustn't forget the little trail of islands to the south that once formed their own republic. Islamorada Beer Company (IBC) cofounders Jose Herrera and Tyrone Bradley — from Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale, respectively — chose to found their brewery in the Florida Keys.

They, along with Chris Trentine and Nik Schroth, who were both raised in the Keys, opened IBC in May 2014. Now the co-owners are poised to open a second, 27,000-square-foot facility in Fort Pierce on August 19.

All but Schroth, who graduated from the University of Central Florida, were classmates at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. It was Bradley who caught the home brewing bug as far back as 2010, when breweries in South Florida were few and far between. And it was Bradley and his passion for brewing that would draw the rest of his friends into craft beer, says Herrera.

They were there for the openings of Cigar City, Due South, and Tequesta brewing companies and witnessed the subsequent explosion of craft beer in South Florida. It got them thinking that maybe they should open their own brewery. 

"The landscape is definitely not what it was," Herrera says. 

After conceiving of the idea for IBC while on a fishing trip to Bimini, they eventually bit the bullet and got a craft brewery opened in Islamorada. At least in part, nostalgia inspired not only the choosing of the location but the beers as well. All of their beers are light-bodied and sessionable — meaning that more than one can be enjoyed in one sitting — reflecting some of their trips down south to soak in the sun. "We did everything in college together," Herrera says. 

Their Sandbar Sunday beer, an American wheat ale, was inspired by a weekend ritual attended by Trentine and the IBC crew, according to Herrera. Mix that together with Islamorada Ale, a citrus ale, and you have IBC's version of a Black and Tan — a beer cocktail typically made by layering Guinness stout over Bass ale.

After two years of brewing, IBC grew to over 100 accounts, and distributors were delivering beer as far north as Jupiter and along the Gulf Coast up to Sarasota. One of their first accounts was the Riverside Market, Herrera says. The need for expansion became apparent, but finding more space in the Keys was difficult, and the owners decided on Fort Pierce.

One of the main reasons for this location is the proximity of the highways, which Herrera says provides a central location to distribute IBC's beer throughout the rest of the state. The new location will increase production by 75,000 barrels per year and includes canning and bottling lines, which Schroth says makes IBC one of the few breweries in the state to do both. 

"We anticipate full state distribution by the end of 2016," Schroth says. 

The new facility began construction in April, and they expect it will be ready for production in August. The new facility will also have a taproom. The brewery will have at least 18 new employees, and Herrera says he's still looking to fill some of the positions. 

The original production facility will remain in Islamorada, where Stephanie Harper will serve as its head brewer. Patrick Byrne will head brewing operations in Fort Pierce.

"They're literally working 18-hour days," Herrera says.

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