There’s a new kid on the block. Tucked away between two long-forgotten historic buildings, Sweetwater Beer Garden is quietly attracting South Beach’s hippest locals to a new membership-only pop-up. Enter through the Ansonia building on 21st Street, one block west of Collins Ave., and make your way to the poolside oasis.
An affordable selection of beers – by the bottle, can ($6), bucket ($25), pitcher ($15) – fresh juices and smoothies ($5) eagerly await your arrival in a tiki-style setting. The juice blends, accommodating profiles from sweet to smoky with local and organic produce, can be spiked with a selection of base spirits such as vodka, scotch, gin, tequila, rum and bourbon ($5). Try the “Sour” juice (limeade, grapefruit, mint) with gin or the “Spicy” (bell pepper, kiwi, lime, ginger) with tequila.
There’s food, too. Check out the grill next to the bar, featuring your choice of protein and starch ($7). The menu, developed by Charles Street chef Nelson Maldonado, is evolving and should be more defined by the grand opening on Friday, Sept. 20. For now, “Pooled Pork Sundays” is the highlight.
“It’s all about simplicity here,” said Tatanka Guerrero. “The idea is to bring likeminded people to a space to disconnect from the nightlife. We want to provide more balance.”
Guerrero knows a thing or two about the wild scene after dark. He’s been at the helm of some of Miami’s hottest parties for more than a decade (think Favela Beach at Wall, just a few steps away at the W hotel). Earlier this year, he and his Sweetwater partner, Paulo Cardoso, opened Radio, a bar/lounge in the South of Fifth neighborhood.
Cardoso says the new spot is like Radio in the sense that it’s hyper-local, embracing the cultural revival on the beach.
“There are people with good taste who don’t want to fist pump.”
For about 150 local tastemakers, membership will be free. These founding members will have the opportunity to extend invitations to others to join for $20. Each candidate is required to fill out a questionnaire filled with playful questions like “what’s your favorite cocktail?”
“Anyone can be a member. You just have to take the time to go through the process, which we put in effect to keep it intimate. It’s not for high volume,” said Guerrero.
At first glance, Sweetwater may resemble The Broken Shaker at the Freehand. This observation is inevitable, but Guerrero points out a key differentiator: “The Broken Shaker is an intelligent cocktail bar.”
He wants to provide an escape for locals to eat lunch, drink juice, do work with free WiFi, and lay low with a limited group of members in a private atmosphere.
Sweetwater is just one piece of a larger puzzle. In addition to providing housing for local artists and creative companies in the Ansonia, the team plans to close the street across from the Bass Museum for art walks, a farmers’ market, concerts and other lively block parties. According to Guerrero, they can do this because their companies own everything on 21st St. from Collins Ave. to Washington Ave.
In a month, a speakeasy called “OddFellows” will open in the lobby of the Plymouth building on the south side of Sweetwater. This spacious indoor venue will feature most of the members-only programming with a bar concept focused on curated flights of spirits.
The pop-up beer garden is scheduled to close in February 2014 when construction begins on the property.
More info at facebook.com/swbeergarden.
Galena Mosovich is the lead writer for cocktail culture for Miami.com and The Miami Herald.