Broward County is already home to several breweries and brewpubs, but the success of craft beer is showing the world that there is always room for a couple more. Bangin' Banjo and 26 Degree brewing companies are both planning to begin production in Pompano Beach this year, possibly within weeks, if not days, of each other.
The city has already given approval for the zoning of each brewery, each of which has begun -- at least on some level -- the process of transforming the interior. Although Bangin' Banjo has yet to receive the official go-ahead from the city to begin construction, 26 Degree received its building permit mid-December.
See also: Ten Best Beers Brewed in Florida In 2014
While 26 Degree is a bit further along with having already received manufacturing approval from the federal government, Bangin' Banjo co-owner Adam Feingold says approval for his brewery is pending.
Still, it's only a matter of time before they are both open. Bangin' Banjo's Feingold says he is optimistically shooting for an April opening, but realistically it could be as late as the summer.
Although originally from New Jersey, Boca Raton is where Feingold and his friend and business partner Giani spent many years. In fact, Feingold recently moved back to South Florida after living in Gainesville.
Craft beer isn't new to Feingold, who developed a taste for it in 2007. It took a little while longer for Giani to discover craft, Feingold says, also mentioning that both have been brewing their own for at least three years.
While in Gainesville, Feingold volunteered to help out at the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival and dabbled in the homebrew scene there.
Working operations for years in the food-service industry and having a homebrewing hobby to boot, Feingold says that having a brewery was always a personal dream. Two years ago, he decided to get the ball rolling. He crunched a few numbers, had some discussion with Giani, and then moved to Pompano Beach in January 2014. Feingold says it took about six months to find a place they both liked and signed a lease in October.
Now, Feingold is working with his engineer to put the final touches on the building plans and could present them to the planning and zoning commission as early as next week. Feingold says he first still needs to upgrade the electrical load and reduce the plumbing for the floor drain. He's hoping for a building permit by next month. Everything must conform to the state's building code.
"Anytime you are doing construction," Feingold says, "you need to draw up the plans by an engineer and the city approves."
Equipment is slowly trickling into the brewery. The walk-in cooler and glycol chiller arrived just a few months ago. Brewing tanks are coming shortly. Feingold says the brew house will contain a three-barrel system, which he says will allow for more experimentation. There will also be a tap room with up to 12 handles and rotating guest taps.
Feingold says he already has at least 25 recipes ready to go. His flagships, however, will include a cream ale, a Belgian red, an amber, a IPA, an American wheat, and a milk stout, which won best of show at the SAAZ Homebrew competition earlier this year in Brevard County. Feingold describes it as having a "creamy and roasty character without being too roasty" and like a "coffee with cream but a lot lighter on the coffee."
But it's their fall seasonal, Dark Side of the Pumpkin porter, that might have everyone drooling. With the exception of a Russian imperial stout and a barleywine, most of his beers are under 7 percent alcohol by volume.
Just a few miles to the southeast from Bangin' Banjo, at 2600 E. Atlantic Blvd., is Greg Lieberman's and Yonathan Ghersi's 26th Degree Brewing Co., part of the developing Harbor Village Shopping Center.
Lieberman and Ghersi were recently granted a building permit for their brewery and have begun construction. Just a few weeks before that, they received the blessings from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to manufacture beer. The only thing left is Florida permits to make beer, but those are easy to acquire, Lieberman says.
"We are officially a brewery; we just need to get the Florida state licenses," Lieberman says.
Lieberman was a homebrewer, having started several years ago. A civil engineer by trade, he once tried to start a brewery years before but didn't follow through. Yet the idea stayed with him. Lieberman was eventually contacted by Ghersi, an old high school friend who was earning his MBA at the time and had to write a business plan for class. So he wrote one for a brewery.
"I think it's every homebrewer's dream to open a brewery," he says.
But what he found instead was vast selection of other craft beers. His mind was blown. A short time later, he found himself brewing a batch of pale ale in his brother's backyard. He wasn't sure what to expect when it was ready to drink.
"After tasting it, I was like, 'This tastes like beer!'" he says.
Now you'll likely find Lieberman inside the future brewery with earplugs, safety goggles, and a concrete saw in hand. When he first leased the 21,000-square-foot building, he explains, it was lacking copper, presumably from being stolen by thieves. There is still lots to be done, but as a civil engineer, Lieberman knows how to build things.
The equipment should be arriving in the beginning of February. It'll be a 30-barrel system, which is the same size as Funky Buddha Brewery's in Oakland Park. The tasting room will be rather spacious, at 4,600 square feet.
Lieberman actually credits Funky Buddha owners KC and Ryan Sentz and Tequesta Brewing's Fran Andrewlevich for negotiating equipment and guidance on how to get his own place going.
The name of the brewery, 26th Degree, draws its inspiration for sitting along the 26th parallel north line of latitude.
In the meantime, you can catch Lieberman and Ghersi at the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival on January 24 and sample some of their beers. The beers are across the board. Some of their brews include lots of IPAs, a stout, a session ale, and a helluva lot more. Lieberman says he is very precise with his recipes and will never deviate.
Things are moving fast at the brewery. Lieberman is shooting for an April or May opening, but it's hard to predict brewery openings. He usually just tells people "sometime in the summer."
"We are working expeditiously, but it's hard to figure out when we're going to open," Lieberman says. "But I'm living the dream, one concrete saw at a time."
As for Bangin' Banjo's Feingold, he says he's aware of the other brewery and even met with Lieberman and Ghersi at the nearby World of Beer for some brews. Far from cutthroat, the world of craft brewers is about as chill and laid-back as you'd expect from guys who like to make beer in their garages.
"We'll end up helping each other out," Feingold says, adding that he cannot wait for both places to open.
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