A few years ago when we first started coming to the Treasure Coast, I tossed a Hail Mary out into the internet to search for craft beer near Sebastian Florida. It was just a whim and I never expected anything to show up, so I was surprised to see Pareidolia Brewing Company in a strip mall down the street. That was in 2015. Now there are two breweries in Sebastian and three breweries fifteen miles down the coast in Vero Beach.
The craft beer movement was slow to reach Florida but it is finally taking off. According to the Brewers Association, in 2017 there were 243 craft breweries in Florida, up from 151 in 2015 when we first arrived, and more than twice as many as there were in 2014. We’ve also noticed that more local bars and restaurants have increasing selections of Florida craft beers on tap.
While we were touring around the breweries in Sebastian and Vero Beach, we met many people making the same loop that were just as excited to finally be able to do a craft brew tour locally. Three Treasure Coast tourism agencies recently came together to form the Treasure Coast Wine and Ale Trail. The trail currently lists nine breweries from Sebastian south to Port St. Lucie. (download the Treasure Coast Wine and Ale Trail map here) On our next trip we’ll have to venture further south down the coast to explore the breweries in Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie. This spring, we passed a few fun days sampling these five breweries in Sebastian and Vero Beach.
Pareidolia Brewing Company
Pete and Lynn Anderson were the pioneers of craft breweries in Sebastian. Pareidolia Brewing Co. was the first brewery in town when they opened in 2014 in a strip mall on US Highway 1. It was a small space but cozy and we all loved it. This past year in November 2017, Pareidolia moved to a second location that has tripled their brewing capacity. They gutted and renovated the old Sebastian Post Office building into a brewpub with a large bar and dining area inside and an outdoor deck with a view of the Indian River.
The bar has 16 beer taps, usually with about a dozen of their own brews and a few guest beers. For non-beer drinkers they also offer a small but interesting selection of wines by the glass. Pareidolia produces a wide variety of beer styles including blondes, reds, porters, stouts and strong ales. One of the most popular is the 32958 NEIPA, affectionately referred to as “Zipcode” because it gets its name from Sebastian’s postal code. It is a New England style IPA, which is an unfiltered style of IPA with a softer mouthfeel and less bitterness. These are also commonly called hazy IPAs. The Zipcode packs a punch, though, with a 7% ABV.
The kitchen at Pareidolia serves up an assortment of appetizers, pretzels, and sandwiches. One of our favorites, the Really Gouda Pesto Panini comes with a choice of turkey or ham topped with gouda cheese, tomato and basil pesto, all pressed into a grilled ciabatta roll. If we’re really hungry we go for one of the Big Dogs. A beast of a hotdog, the bacon cheddar dog is topped with crispy bacon and slathered with melted cheddar cheese.
Pete and Lynn are very active in the community and sponsor frequent fundraising events at the brewery. Check out the Facebook page for upcoming events. There are also game nights, trivia nights, and live music. Tuesday through Friday they give “Day Drinkers” 10% off between 12 and 4pm, then Happy Hour begins with $1 off beers from 4-6pm.
Pareidolia Brewing Company
712 Cleveland St, Sebastian, FL 32958
Mash Monkeys Brewing Co.
As of March 21, 2018 there is more than one brewery in Sebastian with the opening of Mash Monkeys Brewing Company. Co-owners and brewers Derek Gerry and Pat Kirchner met while brewing beer with the Boil Over Boys, a local homebrew club in Sebastian. They have been brewing and pouring their beers at local brew events while they spent the last year renovating their space on US Highway 1. It’s only a short walk from Pareidolia, so you can easily visit both breweries in one trip.
We were there just a few days after they opened. At the time, they only had five of their own beers on tap (one on nitro) and four guest taps from other Florida brewers. You can pick your size: half pint, full pint, or half yard of beer. We tried a tasting flight of half pints of four of the Mash Monkey beers. The Bar Fight Irish Red Ale, Hop Drop Mosaic Smash Pale Ale, Acqua Pazza IPA, and O’Dubhghaill Foreign Extra Stout were all good solid versions of classic beer styles.
As for food, they only offer bags of chips. However, they keep menus on hand from Doughboys Pizza next door if you want a fresh pizza delivered to the bar. They also had an unexpected selection of interesting Italian wines by the glass, a nice touch to go with that pizza.
Since our visit, they have expanded the number of Mash Monkeys beers on tap. The next time we are in town, I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ve grown, sampling a broader selection of their beers, and hanging out to play a few rounds of pool on one of the free pool tables.
Mash Monkeys Brewing Co.
920 US-1, Sebastian, FL 32958
Vero Beach Breweries
Orchid Island Brewery
Orchid Island was Vero Beach’s first brewery. They actually started brewing beer in 2008 in a small space behind the current tavern located near the beach on Ocean Drive. Brewer Alden Bing and his wife Val officially opened the Orchid Island Brewery in 2014. On their website they list over 30 different beers that they brew. Many of their beers incorporate local Orchid Island and Indian River citrus, part of their “grove to glass” project that highlights the citrus industry of Indian River County.
The Orchid Island Brewery tavern is cozy and comfortable, very different from most breweries. It’s the kind of place where you could hang out and linger over your favorite beer or a glass of wine and an artisan cheese board (they’ve got those too!) There were six of their own beers on tap, along with about a dozen guest beers. We tried a tasting flight of four Orchid Island beers for $10.70. We were surprised to find that the citrus beers were not overly fruity, but instead were very well balanced. The Indian River Grapefruit American IPA and Star Ruby Imperial IPA both had lots of juicy grapefruit flavor balanced by good levels of hops.
The Nuthin’ Fancy Southern Brown Ale was an excellent example of brown ale with oatmeal and chocolate flavors. We often find it difficult to find a good brown ale and it is one of my husbands favorite types of beer so he was very pleased with this product. There was a Russian Imperial Stout aging in barrels in the corner that we would love to have tried but sadly it was not ready to tap. They also have a very nice wine list of 20 wines by the glass, so we’ll keep this in mind whenever we’re in the mood for a glass of wine.
The kitchen is the domain of Chef Michael Lander, who opened Michael’s Table as a separate entity within the Orchid Island Brewery last year. The menu might be small but the food is excellent as well with what I might call creative pub fare, like deviled eggs with shaved proscuitto or chicken liver mousse. Seasonal additions also keep the menu interesting. We kept it simple with a Grown Up Grilled Cheese sandwich, melty gruyere and aged cheddar cheeses on crispy country bread.
I wish we had the time and appetite to try more of the menu items, but we were on a mission to try all three Vero Beach breweries and were just beginning. We will definitely be back to Orchid Island, for the beer, the wine, and the food.
Orchid Island Brewery
2855 Ocean Dr, Vero Beach, FL 32963
American Icon Brewery
The American Icon Brewery might be as much about the building as it is the beer and food. When you walk in you are immediately struck by the immensity of the historic Diesel Power Plant, built in 1926. It’s a beauty. Real estate developer and owner Michael Rechter purchased the building through auction from the city and redeveloped the space preserving much of the original architecture. At the center of the taproom, a bright red diesel engine generator from 1937 was retrofitted with the beer taps. Outside, there is a terrace with tables and lounge areas, a firepit, and games.
It was hard to believe that American Icon had only been open for little more than six months when we visited. They had fourteen of their own beers on tap. We selected six beers for tasting flight for $14.00.
Brewmaster Jesse Robles traveled to Germany as part of his training and the German style comes through in his beers. The Brave World Belgian Wit was floral with yeasty notes typical of a Belgian style wit beer. Another favorite was the American Blonde, which was a nice full bodied blonde with lots of flavor and viscosity. The Hotshot Lincoln Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout was really tasty with rich thick dark chocolate, coffee and whiskey notes and 8% ABV.
From the menu, we selected sliders of braised short rib meat, shredded on a bun and doused with a creamy beer cheese and fried onion strings. We had to eat at least one healthy thing that day and the crispy brussels sprouts with a maple mustard vinaigrette were a delicious choice.
Happy Hour is Monday through Thursday from 3pm – 6pm for $1.50 off craft beers and wine. The next time we visit, it will be on a “Sharing Monday” for half off most of the Shareables (appetizers) from 3pm until close with purchase of an alcoholic beverage.
American Icon Brewery
1133 19th Pl, Vero Beach, FL 32960
Walking Tree Brewery
Walking Tree Brewery was our third stop, since the tasting room doesn’t open until 3pm during the week (they open at noon Friday – Sunday). They are also in a historic building; an old Navy aviation supply warehouse built in 1945. Inside, the expansive open warehouse space felt like the breweries that we are used to in the Northeast.
Co-founders Mike Malone and Alan Dritenbas opened Walking Tree in 2016. They started winning awards quickly. In 2017 at the Best Florida Beer Professional Championship, they took gold, silver, and bronze for their beers and won the Best Florida Beer and Best Small Brewery awards.
Their beer can be found on tap in restaurants in Melbourne and Sebastian, so we had already tried a few before visiting the brewery. There were 21 on tap the day we were there, with one on nitro. Our tasting flight of five beers came nestled in a muffin tin. One of our favorites was the Le Frog, a full bodied saison with a high 8.5% ABV. This is just one of their beers that lends itself to barrel aging and they’ve tried it in both red wine barrels and in white wine barrels with peaches. Unfortunately, they were not available to taste but you could buy bombers from the cooler.
There is a lot of barrel aging going on at Walking Tree, as evidenced by the many barrels stacked around the brewery. The Hindrance Bourbon Barrel Aged Belgian Strong Dark Ale, at 11.6% ABV, was a big and bold example.
There is no restaurant kitchen. They serve light bar snacks, but you are welcome to bring your own food or have food delivered to the brewery. Thursday through Sunday there are frequently food trucks. They host many events at the brewery and live music on weekend evenings. There is plenty of room for a crowd to hang out, play Jenga or a game of darts. Happy Hour is Monday – Friday from 4pm – 6pm for $1 off beer and wine.
Walking Tree Brewery
3209 Dodger Rd, Vero Beach, FL 32960