Weekends in Miami are packed with food, art and music festivals. And now that craft beer has become popular in South Florida, it has its own festival too. This Saturday Grovetoberfest, the largest craft beer festival in Florida, celebrates local and Florida breweries and brings Miami on board with a national trend.
Despite its name, the event will not take place in Coconut Grove this year. Instead, it will be held at Miami Marine Stadium.
Tony Albelo, CEO of Swarm, the company that produces Grovetoberfest, created the event in 2011, after he’d become interested in craft beer and learned that he had to trek to Fort Pierce to attend a festival. Since then, Grovetoberfest has grown tremendously. In its first year, there were 200 beers to sample and 58 breweries present. This year those numbers have doubled to 400 beers and 120 breweries, says Albelo.
Ten of those breweries are located in Miami alone, and many more are in Florida.
“Now we have over 50 from the state and some are arguably considered some of the best breweries in the world,” Albelo says. “It’s pretty amazing,”
The festival has also expanded in terms of attendees. The first year, around 5,000 people went. After the first few years, Swarm decided to impose a maximum of 6,500 people.
“It is very cool to see where it’s gone,” Albelo said. “I can’t take all the credit, but we’ve definitely been one of the forces of the advance of craft beer in Miami.”
Titanic Brewing Company was one of the few Florida breweries at Grovetoberfest in 2011 and it has returned every year since, says owner and founder Kevin Rusk. The Coral Gables-based beer maker, which opened in 1997, was one of the first breweries in Miami. It has grown along with Grovetoberfest and the craft beer industry in South Florida.
“We were kind of down here by ourselves for a long time and the other breweries have helped business for us because they’ve opened up people’s eyes,” Rusk said. “People have really reveled in craft beer, and just us alone, we couldn’t really educate the mass market of South Florida.”
Rusk said that the explosion of the industry in Miami has allowed his customers to share his passion for craft beer.
“Now people usually come in and they’re knowledgeable; they know about IPAs and different things, so it’s nice to see this growth happen,” he said.
The Titanic owner has watched, and tasted, as the participants in Grovetoberfest has transformed from mostly national companies, like Sam Adams, to more local beer makers.
“Once you put a beer in a bottle or a keg or whatever it’s never going to taste quite the same. We can make unpasteurized beer here. It’s a very short shelf-life, but it’s fresh and super delicious,” Rusk said. “You can taste that now in Grovetoberfest.”
The decision to move to Miami Marine Stadium stemmed from the damages to the park in Coconut Grove due to heavy rainfalls before last year’s event. With a new location comes many new additions. A beer connoisseur has hand-selected rare beers for the craft beer-lovers to sample. Civil Society Brewing, a company based in Jupiter, will be pouring for the first time at any Miami-Dade beer fest. The festival will also include a VIP lounge, which will offer specialty brews, a covered seating area and air-conditioned bathrooms.
However, after receiving negative feedback from Grove businesses and the festival attendees, Albelo said that they made a plan with City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell to bring Grovetoberfest back to the Grove in 2017.
Wynwood Brewing Company will be at the festival for its third consecutive year. Enrique Vittorino, who is in charge of marketing at the company, said they like to participate every year to spread the word about craft beer.
“We love to basically be at every event possible that’s local and that’s in Miami,” Vittorino said. “We want to make noise.”
For Vittorino, like Rusk, the growth of craft beer in the area is fantastic. He likes to see that people are turning away from commercial beers and opening their palates to something new and local. He encourages everyone to go to their neighborhood brewery, try a pint and see what craft beer is all about.
“Craft beer rules!” he said.