As the number of microbreweries across the tri-county area continues to grow, both existing and in-planning craft beer businesses say they're looking for new ways to stay relevant in a growing marketplace. Although several South Florida breweries have been serving food from on-premise kitchens for years, an increasing number of microbreweries have recently announced plans to do the same.
Currently, over a half-dozen microbreweries are looking to incorporate permanent food options into their business plan, a move that will officially categorize many as brewpubs. The Brewers Association (BA), the nonprofit trade association dedicated to small and independent brewers, currently lists seven South Florida breweries as brewpubs, defined as an establishment that sells both food and beer produced on-premise.
The list includes the Mack House in Davie; Titanic Brewing Co. in Miami; Big Bear Brewing Co. in Coral Springs; Hollywood Brewing Co. in Hollywood; Miami Brewing Co. in Homestead; as well as West Palm Beach's West Palm Brewery & Wine Vault and Dixie Grill & Brewery. Miami's Veza Sur and Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park offer food menus, but they fall under BA's production brewery status.
This week, Due South Brewing Co. founder Mike Halker announced a partnership with a local food truck to offer brewery guests a permanent lunch and dinner option. Starting Saturday, September 15, chef Royal Gunter of Savoury Eats food truck will be onsite at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday serving customers two separate menus for lunch and dinner, in addition to offering unique menus for specialty events and beer pairing dinners.
Items will be priced affordably, Halker says, and will rotate weekly with everything from a New Orleans-style muffuletta or traditional Southern-style hot chicken to jerk-seasoned salmon or Moroccan-spiced lamb meatball sub.
"We want the approach to the food to mirror our approach to beer — always changing," Halker says. "That's the culinary agility we're really into."
Earlier this year, Palm Beach Brewery & Wine Vault became the first Palm Beach County brewery to open with an on-site kitchen. Owner John Pankauski says he didn't plan on opening a restaurant, but was encouraged by numerous people to include food as part of his business plan. Today, the brewery's wood-burning oven produces a variety of dishes including oven-roasted chicken wings, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, homemade focaccia bread, and thin-crust pizza made with locally-sourced ingredients.
"If you'd told me before I opened that food revenue would be equal to my beer revenue, I wouldn't have believed you," Pankauski says. "On a monthly basis, our food accounts for approximately 30 to 40 percent of our gross revenue. To me, that's a testament to how important quality food can be for a craft brewery."
MIA Beer Company had similar beginnings when it opened in January 2015. Although he originally planned to serve only beer, the Doral taproom was required by law to serve food, says MIA owner Eddie Leon.
After two months of catering food for taproom guests, MIA purchased a food trailer. It operated until July 2017, when the city of Doral notified the brewery it could no longer use a truck to serve food. Today, the brewery sells food from its on-premise kitchen, Bruhaus & Grill, run by Pepito's Plaza.
"Food sales have become a big part of our taproom model," says Leon. "They make up 35 to 40 percent of our current sales. It helps tremendously to allow our patrons to stay with us and continue drinking. Some people visit just for the food. Looking back, we realize that it had a huge positive impact on our business."
In February, Fort Lauderdale's Tarpon River Brewing opened its doors as a brewpub. The menu offers a full range of dining options from breakfast starting at 8 a.m., to vegan-friendly hummus and salads, or pub-style eats like banger sausages, burgers, and flatbread pizza.
"Do all breweries require restaurants? I don't think so," says Tarpon River
Additionally, Miami's Tank Brewing will move from using its own onsite food truck, Twisted Fork Kitchen, to launching a 1,000-square-foot, on-premise kitchen that will focus on more chef-driven dishes. The idea is to offer a larger selection for the guests that visit the 8,000-square-foot taproom, offering their own take on "country industrial" fare that incorporates elements of comfort food and the beer making process.
An increasing number of formerly-established microbreweries are also making a move to include full-time dining options.
In Palm Beach County, Delray Beach's Saltwater Brewery has plans to work with a food truck that will launch later this year. One of Saltwater's founder's passion projects, the truck will specialize in offering a rotating selection of favorite dishes from now-defunct Delray Beach establishments, says the head of operations Dustin Jeffers.
"We'll still rotate trucks throughout the week, but this food truck will serve guests during lunch hours, and as a back-up option for trucks that cancel last minute," Jeffers says. "Having food during non-peak days and hours will help bring people in, and — we hope — keep people longer."
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Boynton Beach-based Devour Brewing Co. realized the same need, and recently partnered with West Palm Beach-based Red Splendor Catering to incorporate a more reliable dining option for taproom patrons. Last month, Red Splendor — best known for its organic bone broth and handmade sausages — began operating as a permanent pop-up inside the brewery taproom Wednesday through Sunday. Plans are to expand the taproom and kitchen into an adjoining space.
Further south, Pompano Beach's 26 Degree Brewing cofounders Greg Lieberman and Yonathan Ghersi say the question asked the most since opening day has been, "Do you serve food?" Last year, the duo purchased used commercial kitchen equipment to build a full-service restaurant that will offer lunch, dinner, brunch, and late-night dining options seven days a week for patrons visiting their 4,000-square-foot taproom.
Moving forward, several South Florida breweries in-planning plan on serving in-house food alongside their beer. Boca Raton's American Craft Aleworks opened as a restaurant and pairs food with beer made on a one-barrel system, but plans for a production facility in West Palm Beach will do both full-scale. In Broward County, Pompano Beach's Dangerous Minds Brewing has plans to serve British-inspired pub fare, while Dania Beach-based 3 Sons Brewing will have a wood-burning pizza oven. And, in Miami, Beat Culture will partner with Jr's Gourmet Burgers founder Jesus de la Torre Jr.
"When I get phone calls from aspiring brewery owners, I tell them not to overlook the food component," Pankauski says. "Our job is to create a unique craft experience. Every other brewery sells beer and wine, but you want to give your patrons a unique experience they can't get anywhere else. Food has became an important part of that mission."