When Alex and I started to talk about creating this blog, one thing I was certain about was that I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to get to know more about the people behind South Florida's craft beer scene. And when I met Daniel Naumko and Matt Manthe back in March, during Boxelder's 2nd Year Anniversary, I knew right away that we had to interview them and learn as much as possible about their brewery, Odd Breed Wild Ales. It turns out that this interview ended up becoming a six-month long "partnership", where I got to document almost every step they took to build their own tap room. But most importantly, we also bonded, creating a certain kinship throughout the whole process by sharing stories from our backgrounds, and sometimes even letting them vent out their frustrations along the way when things weren't going according to plan.
Seeing the creation of the tap room from just mere ideas to an actual tangible object was an extremely fun and rewarding exercise. Oftentimes, Manthe and Naumko would give us details on how they wanted to set up the place, such as where the bar would be, how and when the tanks and barrels would be transported there, what kind of bar top they wanted, and even the stools they were selecting. After months of meeting up with the two, the tap room had been completed and we could finally set eyes on everything, putting our imaginations to rest.
For those who are not familiar with the brewery, Odd Breed Wild Ales started two years ago, and since then has had a lot of people paying close attention to them. Not only is this one of the most anticipated breweries to open in South Florida, much in part to its' funky creations, but also this is the first brewery in Florida dedicated solely to wild fermentations, using mostly Brettanomyces and French Oak Barrels. Although the focus will be their beers, the menu will also have guest beers, both on draft and bottles.
Located in the newly renovated Downtown Pompano, Odd Breed's tasting room is surrounded by art, history, and a big sense of community, which we got a glimpse of during our very first visit. Matt and Dan not only walked us through their facility, but they also showed us around the neighborhood, and informed us about a craft beer block party that happens the first Friday of every month, called Old Town Untapped. Not too far from the neighborhood, Matt then took us to 26° Brewing Company, where they had been storing and aging most of their barrels and beers at the time. In addition to 26°, Odd Breed also had barrels at Bangin' Banjo Brewing Co. (Pompano Beach) and Barrel of Monks Brewery (Boca Raton). Now that the tap room is open and almost all the barrels are inside of it, the duo will continue to brew at these breweries, but all the fermentation and aging will take place at Odd Breed's facility. While they utilize mostly Brettanomyces and fruits on some occasions, Odd Breed Wild Ales has also been experimenting with numerous hop varieties in its' recipes, such as Hallertau Blanc, aged Hallertau Mittelfrueh, and Czech Saaz. They also have plans to dry hop some of their Wheat Ales and Table Saisons.
As we learned more and more about the brewery, we also unearthed more regarding their backstories, as well as the events that led them to this point. The two met and became friends at Daniel's restaurant, the Sybarite Pig located in Boca Raton. Not long after that, they decided to form a partnership when Naumko approached Manthe with the idea of opening a brewery. While Matt brings his experiences of brewing at Thomas Creek, Green Bench, and Brewzzi, he never had to deal with customers or money transactions before, except for some craft beer events, where he served beers in exchange for tickets. Daniel, on the other hand, has more skills with customer service, management, and advertisement. Although they come from distinct backgrounds, the similarities between them speaks volumes. As a matter of fact, they both attended VLB Berlin in different years, yet they both agree that their palates are very similar when it comes to beer. But most importantly, the two of them are perfectionists, which can come off as stubbornness at times.
“We want to make THE best beer. This has been our goal since the very beginning. We are going to take whatever time it takes for our beer to be perfect. We've been delayed by many things and one of them was making sure that there's nothing that would create odors or fumes before we moved the barrels into this [tap] room, because that would potentially cost the beers to pick up undesired flavors”.
- Daniel Naumko
The Wild in the Ales
I can still remember the moment I had my first Framboise Lambic like it was yesterday, back when I was still living in my hometown, Curitiba. I wasn't much of a beer drinker then, but I enjoyed one every once and a while. That was until the day that I spotted some bottles from Brouwerij Lindemans when I was at a bar called O Barba Hamburgueria. I would have to say that Daniel and I had similar experiences, although he was in Spain when he had his first wild ale, and it was a bottle of Cantillon. Meanwhile, for Matt, his first contact with a wild ale happened out of pure curiosity. He recalled that alcohol laws were extremely strict in South Carolina while he lived there after graduating from Clemson University. One of those laws was that beers above 6.2% ABV could not be sold in the state, and as a result not many breweries would distribute their beers to that area. It was only by the time that he started working for Thomas Creek Brewery when the laws had changed, and that's when he finally managed to get his hands on some bottles of wild ale. For him, the taste of Brettanomyces was such an eye-opening experience, that he just had to play around with this yeast strain at home, since his former boss would never allow him to brew with it at the brewery.
But what exactly makes a beer a Wild Ale? For some it's when the beer is fermented with only wild strains of yeast rather than Saccharomyces, while for others it is any fermentation that didn't use yeast strains that were cultured in a lab. But, one thing is for sure, Wild Ales impart unique flavors, which according to Manthe, that cannot be found in ordinary beers that use Saccharomyces during fermentation. One of the most common strains found in Wild Ales is Brettanomyces, which can either be used by itself or with the addition of bacteria, or even fruit. Lots and lots of fruit. Although there isn't a lot of research on "Brett" or wild cultures, when it does happen, the research is usually being conducted with the purpose of how to avoid getting these yeast strains into the beer. This is mostly because breweries are actively trying to avoid these types of "contaminations" because of the "off-flavors" that these strains yield.
"If you are on top of your game and you have a plan from the beginning and you stick to it, you can do both [wild ales and porters or stouts], even if you don't have separate areas, as long as you have the right system in place. At Brewzzi I used the same equipment and at Green Bench, they use the same equipment and they don't have any issues".
- Matt Manthe
While research has been minimal in the field, breweries like Cantillon and Lindemans, who have been in the market since 1900 and 1822, respectively, dared to produce some of the most complex beers in the world using mainly spontaneous fermentation. With this being one of the oldest and most artistic forms of brewing, it's no wonder Daniel and Matt decided to venture down this path, particularly in South Florida, where Wild Ales are always a refreshing option during any time of the year. Something else that sets them apart from the rest is their access to fresh local ingredients here in South Florida, where there is a wide variety of subtropical and tropical fruits that can't be found anywhere else in the country, and that have yet to be used in brewing recipes. For that reason, the duo has also developed relationships with local farmers, which they also feel is very important to keep the engines of the community running. This is something that I noticed that they take very seriously, ranging from talks about offering discounts to local police and neighborhood securities to one day hosting their very own beer festival.
Now that the tap room is finally open, everyone is encouraged to stop by to sip on some of the brewery's finest beers, alongside a select list of guest breweries on the menu too. Their business hours are still minimal, only opening on Thursday through Sunday, since a good portion of their beers are still aging inside the many puncheons nestled in their tap room.
Odd Breed Wild Ales
Location: 50 NE 1st St, Pompano Beach, FL
Business Hours: Thursday and Friday 4pm - 10pm | Saturday 1pm - 10pm | Sunday 4pm - 10pm