Waxing philosophical compliments quality beer. That’s why it’s unusual to hear small talk among beer drinkers in the Abby Brewing Company, located a block from Lincoln Road on South Beach. Easy, guitar-soaked songs from bartender Frank MacBride’s iPod (Wilco, Modest Mouse, Elliott Smith) purr in the cozy, all-wooden pub — an atmosphere that inspires patrons to seldom waste their words. In fact, it only took artist and loyal customer Sean Kelly three words to summarize life: “It goes on,” he wrote on my unattended notepad, next to one of his doodles that decorate many of the bar counter’s coasters.
The deep character of Abbey’s loyal crowds mirrors the deep, flavorful beer in its mugs: Abbey’s Immaculate IPA, Father Theodore’s Imperial Stout, the full-bodied Brother Dan’s Double and Czech Pilsner Urquell. The unique selection is shipped from Melbourne, where Brewmaster Raymond Rigazio brews with the Florida Beer Company. Rigazio named the pub after the abbey monasteries. He traveled throughout Europe for years, drinking beer along the way, and concluded his favorite style comes from the monks of the Trappist monasteries. “I decided to open the Abbey because, at the time, there were few places, if any, where one could go to tip a pint of quality beer and have interesting conversation,” Rigazio explains. “I guess the reasons were selfish since I love quality, hand crafted beer, warm weather and good conversation.”
Flannel-clad beer slinger Frank MacBride — who slightly resembles Death Cab for Cutie’s front man Ben Gibbard — handed me 16 ounces of the deep black imperial stout, which he describes as “Guinness on steroids” and, according to the bar’s website, won the best Florida Beer gold medal in 2008. A relaxed woman dressed in black and a knit cap takes long drags from a cigarette and savors the dry hop aroma of Chimay Blanc, a tasty Belgian brew served in an oversized wine glass. Outside, a green neon light on a relatively quiet street declares “BAR,” as if Abbey stands alone as the only true definition of the term on South Beach.
If you’re a hardcore beer enthusiast, that just might be true. “I never was into the beach’s club scene,” Prime One Twelve Chef Mike Sabin says. “That’s why I like this place.”
The Abbey Brewing Company, 1115 16th St, Miami, Beach; 305-538-8110; open daily 1 p.m. to 5 a.m.