It's been a few years since Wynwood surpassed the title of being just an art stronghold, becoming a hub for the craft beer scene in Miami. Home to Wynwood Brewing Company, J. Wakefield Brewing, Concrete Beach Brewery, and now Veza Sur Brewing Co., the neighborhood is also the residence of a very special market, a craft beer market to be more precise that goes by the name of Boxelder. On March 3rd, Adam Quinn Darnell, alongside his wife Nicole S. Darnell, and his crew celebrated three years of amazing beers, events, and partnerships.
Throughout the years, Adam has brought a vast amount of world-class beers to the city of Miami. In addition, he has hosted a plethora of events, ranging from food and beer pairings, to bottle shares, and art exhibitions linked to some of the most well-known artists within the craft beer industry.
For us, Boxelder has always been our home away from home, where no matter what, we know we will be among friends. And for this reason we decided to sit down with Adam, a few weeks before the latest Art Basel, to discuss with him the past, present, and future of Boxelder, as well as the beer scene in the neighborhood.
THE BITTER NOTES: So, it's been three years now. How much do you think Boxelder has changed since its opening?
ADAM QUINN DARNELL: You know, one of the interesting things was that, opening was such an ordeal, and when we finally opened we were like, "Oh shit, what do we do now?" Nicole and I had somewhat of an idea of how we wanted things to go, and more or less, I feel like we kind of stuck to that. But the one thing since our opening is that I didn't want food at all, and that has obviously changed, you know. Besides the food, the focus of the beers we pour has changed, but of course it's still beer. We kind of knew that the draft pours would out do the bottle sales. It’s just natural, especially in this neighborhood. For example, the Northeast IPAs, they weren’t really a thing back then and now we sell tons of them. And of course, sours, we always push them because we really like them, but now if we don’t have 4 or 5 sours on tap, people are like, “What the hell?” But the biggest change is that Nicole doesn’t work here anymore. It was a big awakening for me to take over her responsibilities, since she was the one taking care of payroll. So now we have a bookkeeper that takes care of that, I took on more responsibilities, and Tina then got moved up to manager. That was the change that had the most impact on us. Whether that's noticeable to the public, I don’t know, but I kind of hope not.
TBN: What made you change your mind from not wanting food to having sausages and hosting other food events?
AQD: Well, Freddy from Proper Sausages has always been a friend of ours... and another thing is that my dad and grandpa were both butchers. I also worked as a butcher during high school, so making sausages is something that I've done since I was a kid. It's something that I have an affinity for. And yeah, we had them [Proper Sausages] over for Oktoberfest, and it went from that to us purchasing wholesale and cooking their sausages in-house. The food events are also something that we really like to do. We have a bunch of friends that are chefs, like chef Jeremiah and Steven from Taquiza. This keeps things kind of fresh and exciting, instead of having the same thing over and over again. I never thought that we would do food as much as we do now.
TBN: How do you feel that the craft beer scene has changed in South Florida since you guys opened?
AQD: You know, it’s interesting, because it's definitely grown a lot, just by looking at the number of breweries and beer bars that have opened. Overall, I think it’s been great since it's helped to educate the consumer, you know, people that are not necessarily craft beer nerds are realizing that this is a thing and that it can be appreciated. That, to me, is the biggest change of how much it [craft beer scene] has grown. Luckily, there’s a freaking ton of people down here so it's not spreading anybody too thin. And luckily, most of the guys that have been opening breweries down here are putting out really good beer. When Nicole and I moved here from New York, she’s actually from here, and I lived here before, people were saying that we were crazy to open up a beer bar. But when we opened, it coincided with the opening month of Wakefield and M.I.A. And since we are pretty good friends with these guys, it made sense to open Boxelder when we did.
TBN: Now that you mentioned the close openings, why Wynwood out of all places in Miami?
AQD: Well, when we moved down here with the intent to open the bar and started to look around, at that time in 2012, the neighborhood wasn’t nearly as developed as it is now and the rents were a lot cheaper. If we would have tried to do it now, rent would be too expensive. That coupled with the breweries here, with Wynwood, Concrete, and Wakefield at the time, all being in the neighborhood, it just kinda made sense to open within walking distance to them. It’s nice to see in other cities that you go to that have areas, you know, neighborhoods where you can just hop to different breweries and beer bars. So it just seemed natural to us.
TBN: And what was the "aha!" moment that made you decide to open Boxelder?
AQD: We were living in New York and the jobs we had were great, but they kinda turned into something we didn’t expect. My end of it was that I ended up working at a warehouse moving crates of art work around. I love the art world, you know, installing art, meeting artists, and working with them, but moving crates in a warehouse is not what I wanted. When we were in Miami before, Nicole and I both worked with art, I did installations and she used to manage a private collection. Then a gallery from New York came for Art Basel in 2005 and hired us to move up there. At some point I wasn’t happy with my job anymore, even though it paid well, it just wasn’t it. And when Nicole got a job offer in Miami, I was like “Oh fuck it, I always wanted to open a bar here." So she moved down and we lived apart for a year. I lived in New York, she lived here, and we would go back and forth all the time. And then I moved down, and that was it. I called my mom to tell her and she said I was insane [laugh]. And well, I know. But after that, everyone in the family has been very supportive. At that time we were both making good money, so it was more about being happy and I think we've achieved that.
TBN: Can you tell us more about your project with sour beers?
AQD: Oh yes, we have a series called Sour Minded. It's something we've wanted to do to kind of push sour beers, which I know is a trendy thing right now, but my wife and I both really love sour beers. When we first started getting access to stuff like Crooked Stave and Almanac-- these are guys, you know, that five years ago, I was like, "This is the best beer around". I never imagined we would be able to work with them. And once we started getting access to them, we wanted to create something that would showcase the beers in the right way, giving them the substance that they need, and that we feel they deserve. So, this project was a nice way to do this. Initially, it was supposed to occur every six weeks. It's changed from that because other events came and kind of bumped it around so it's actually been about every six to eight weeks, which is longer than what we would like in between them, but it's what works though. Eventually, we would like to make it into a big festival, a type of sour festival. Right now, it's still in its infancy, but it's something we are really excited about and we hope to push and grow, and maybe spin it off into its own thing. We have some names that we would like to work with in the future, but those are still top secret...
TBN: Any international names you would like to bring for Sour Minded?
AQD: Yeah, in 2016, before Art Basel, we were really pushing Danish stuff and I would love to do one [edition] with To Øl, the Danish brewers. That’s another one I would like to do for Art Basel too because their labels are just freaking beautiful. We were over there earlier this year  and they did some crazy stuff, and it was awesome. I just don't know how we go about getting their beers in a timely manner. Those beers you need to get and really sit on them and plan around. It takes a little more effort for that. Other than that, it becomes more of a thing about what we can get access to... like for Almanac, which was our last one, we literally got the call from the distributor saying that Almanac was available, and I nearly wet myself because I love their stuff [laugh]. So we kind of snatched up this and that, and we finally had enough to put on an event. So yeah, we'll just have to see what becomes available or not.
TBN: Which have been the most exciting projects that you have worked with in the past three years?
AQD: Honestly, for me it was the Mikkeller thing we did in 2016 for Art Basel. Keith Shore, the Mikkeller artist, did a series of limited edition prints for us. I called him out of the blue, I didn’t know him at all, and he was like “I don’t know, I don’t think I have time for it”. I was like, "Alright, that's cool, I figured I'd just try". And so a couple weeks later he calls me back and says, “You know what, I think we can do it.” And I'm like, "Hell yeah!" I didn’t know how people would respond, and he wanted to do more prints. But I was like, let's just keep it small because I had no idea if people were going to buy them. And people went nuts for them, and we sold out in two days. I never expected that to happen. Then, you know, there’s also Free the Whales with Kris Marino, that’s a fun one. That was something we never thought about doing when we first opened, but it's such a fun party, such a good time, everyone loves it. For this years  Art Basel, we have an insane line up with Civil Society, Our Mutual Friend, Finback, Coppertail again, Aslin, and Angry Chair, so it's just like back to back to back, which is awesome. And for most of them, the brewers are actually going to be here on hand, which is a pretty huge deal to me.
TBN: Talking about Civil Society, you guys did the Hieroglyphics IPA with them. Do you see yourself making your own beer or would you rather remain as a craft beer market and keep doing collaborations like that one?
AQD: As far as a brewery, I don't know, I would like to have maybe a brew pub. We even talked to a number of different chefs about it, but for that to actually happen, it's gotta be the perfect situation where everything falls into place. Otherwise, we're not going to try to force it.
TBN: But you have a history of brewing in your family, right?
AQD: Yeah, my dad brewed beer since I was a kid. In the early 90s, he was a school teacher and he would go to Colorado Springs in the summer, where my aunt lives, to help a guy convert a bunch of dairy tanks. At that time you couldn’t buy brewing equipment at all, so he helped this guy and we would go in the summer to brew. It’s something I’m definitely into, but it was always hit or miss with me, I was never great at it. So maybe something small, like seven barrels or less with food. It’s something I would like to do. We'll see if that happens or not, you know.
Boxelder Craft Beer Market
Location: 2817 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127
Business Hours: Monday 4PM – 12AM | Tuesday to Thursday 1PM – 12AM | Friday 1PM – 2AM | Saturday 10AM – 2AM | Sunday 1 – 10PM
Phone: (305) 942-7769