Talent is often misconstrued as a divine gift. In reality, talent, for lack of a better explanation, is obsession. It’s that constant, intangible force to continually push yourself and your community to heights that were never even thought possible. And regardless of any Star Wars decorative nods, it’s that force that pushes Jonathan Wakefield and his team at J. Wakefield Brewing to be and do better.
“The people deserve good beer, it’s part of who I am and what this company is about is making good quality beer,” Wakefield said. “A lot of people are about just the money, and they put out whatever they have. To me, if I make a bad beer, I’d rather dump it than put it on the market.”
It’s this attitude and energy that went into the months-long planning of Wakestock. The all-day beer event coming up this Saturday, February 13 at 12 p.m. at gastroPod Miami, celebrates the brewery’s year marking, and promises a full day of over 20 JWB favorites and three new barrel-aged bottle releases as well as a collaboration sour.
Wakefield cites his personal relationship with the brewing community certainly aided in acquiring these rare beers for the fest, but admits it was no walk in the park.
“It wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, send me some beers,’ it was a lot more work than that.” Wakefield said. “I had to set up distribution and pay for distribution rights… there was a lot of logistical work to get this done.”
While Wakestock could easily have been a self-congratulatory, low-key event, especially coming up after a well-timed point of high visibility thanks to a three-category win at the RateBeer Awards, the team at JWB was by no means kicking back, and for Wakefield it all boils down to one key idea: bringing the best possible beer to the community that raised and supported him.
“The people that we love the most are our local supporters who are here all the time…We want to help the Miami beer scene, it’s been my number one thing from the beginning,” Wakefield said. “This is my hometown and it’s always been about growing Miami.”
The road to success however doesn’t come without trial and error and while the brewery shows promise of continued critical praise and commercial profitability and expansion, there have been bumps.
One of which includes the January dissolution of the OG Beer Society — a group of contributors from the original crowd funding campaign in 2013, who were initially promised a series of bi-monthly rare beers in exchange for a $300 donation. An idea bogged from inception, the lingering resentments manifest mostly in hurt feelings and snide Instagram comments from former members.
While remorseful of the mishap, Wakefield isn’t afraid of risk and when considering the year in retrospect would pursue the fringes of possibility even further.
“If I could do it over? Push the envelope even more – new beers, new beer styles, new flavors. Because we kind of did last year but it was really a learning curve,” Wakefield said. “Be patient but keep pushing forward…,” he added.
In a changing market, where big beer tries to desperately cling to relevancy through buy-outs, heavy-handed commercials and gratuitous Peyton Manning endorsements, Wakefield acknowledges the battlefront where in the end, taste wins.
“The market is definitely on the swing in our favor. People want more, they want better food, more local food, local beer, they want better quality beer,” he said. “Overall it’s just a bigger movement – and it’s not slowing down.”
Wakestock happens from 12 to 5 p.m. at gastroPod and then continues at the JWB taproom until closing. Bottle release sales begin at 5:15 in the tap room. The whole shebang is a cash only event. No timed tappings, so get there early if you think your favorites will kick first.