The craft beer community in South Florida is beginning to take solid form with breweries beginning to open in the area, and craft beer festivals becoming increasingly popular events. The Craft Brewjas are becoming a staple in the emerging community, hosting events that range from tastings to bottle sharing, and they are becoming an influential part of the beer world in South Florida. What began as a bottle sharing club has evolved into a fully fledged craft beer community, and it's only for ladies.
The 'Brewjas' are showcasing craft breweries that are from Florida, as well as breweries that just began to distribute in the region. Arwen Lehman, one of the founding members of the group, shares what is in store for the Brewjas.
How did the idea to make Craft Brewjas begin?
The Craft Brewjas really started to take form after a group of friends met at Abraxas Lounge on Miami Beach for a late night happy hour in April 2011. From there, a few of us got together a few times for small bottle shares and ultimately, the birth of the Brewjas occurred at Lou's Beer Garden over their Sunday Beer Brunch. It was a group of four of us, myself, Yislin Castellanos, Natasha Albornoz and Lena Chambless. After chatting about the interesting beers we had been trying over the last few encounters and swooning over a bottle of Panil Barriquee, an Italian sour beer, we decided that we should start a "craft beer club" for women.
What kind of lady is a Craft Brewja?
A Craft Brewja is any kind of lady who enjoys exploring new types of beers and has an open mind. Sometimes, a beer is just a beer, but on other occasions a beer is something to be appreciated and take your times with to try to understand all of the layers within it; taste, aroma, appearance, etc.
We have seen women go from, "I don't particularly like beer" to enjoying sours, Belgians, stouts and IPAs! It's really a fun transition to watch that happen. However, in most cases the Brewjas already have had their interest piqued by a particular brew and are just looking for a group of fellow enthusiasts to share their time and bottles with.
Between the beer bars and brewery openings, it seems South Florida has a growing craft beer community. How would you like to see the craft beer community grow in South Florida?
The boom of craft beer is very exciting here in South Florida and we are eagerly awaiting all of our breweries to open their doors! It is a great time for craft beer locally. What I would like to see more of are a couple of more gastropub and craft beer bars open up in untapped neighborhoods. And certainly, we welcome any brewery to open up that will help put South Florida on the map the way places like The Funky Buddha are doing.
I also think places that may not offer particularly unique beers need to expand their portfolios a bit--take a risk, have some fun! The key to the success in that is to educate the staff to ensure they are knowledgeable on how to encourage someone from ordering Stella to taking up a Palm Amber. Then they go from there helping the customer along the way to explore more styles like Tripels and Strong Ales, ultimately introducing them to things they have never had before whether it be stouts or hoppy pale ales and IPAs.
How do you think the Brewjas fit into the community?
The Brewjas fit right in to the community. We work diligently to host events, usually with independent businesses or home brew clubs. The craft beer community in South Florida, particularly in Miami and now just getting into Broward (due to proximity) has opened its arms to us whole heartedly. And well, since the birth of Instagram, these gatherings tend to be a gab fest of, "Oh! You're @CraftBrewjas. It is so great to meet you in person, that stout you posted a picture of yesterday looked so good!"
Some of our events have been more intimate where it is a group of people gathered sampling beers in an organized fashion where an emcee discusses each beer and the participants are given time to sit down and evaluate each beer as a group. There have been occasions where we have packed a bar or restaurant so tight that you could barely walk or low-key beer dinners in a few of Miami's hot spots.
How would you like to see the Brewjas grow?
I would like to see the Brewjas grow to be an organized group of individuals with a legitimate membership package (t-shirt, access to exclusive events, etc.), Board of Directors and planning committee that can help map out a full calendar of what we will be doing and when. It is in the works and some of it happening naturally with the involvement of some of the more active Brewjas.
Once this happens I would love to see the organization develop in other cities. Similar to what Girls Pint Out is doing in Chicago, Boston and now Orlando.
What are the next events that are coming up for the Craft Brewjas?
Right now, we are taking a bit of a break as we had a very busy couple of months including participating in the official launch events for Sweetwater Brewing and New Belgium Brewing Company here in South Florida, along with our first Bottle Share/Bake-Off in which a group of us got together and baked with beer while drinking some rarities. We also just hosted a large "Beer Meet Up" at Abraxas on Miami Beach to show some local love, we estimated about 100 guests in attendance to that (our largest to date) and most recently we collaborated with Tap & Grind, a craft beer bar out of Orlando and we took a caravan of people to The Funky Buddha Brewery and Due South Brewery to offer support the folks pouring some great local brews.
In the coming months, I anticipate getting something similar going with Wynwood Brewing Co. and M.I.A. Brewing as well as we are very happy to hear their development is moving along quite well. With all of that said and Oktoberfest and the holidays just around the corner, chances are we will have an event or two brewing. If you do want information on our events, please Like us on Facebookwww.facebook.com/craftbrewjas and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for the most updated information at @craftbrewjas