Award-winning downtown brewery stays competitive with big beer
On a holiday nearly as American as the Fourth of July, bars, restaurants and breweries nationwide celebrated National Beer Day on April 7. Blogs and news releases updated individuals on the best deals and specials on beer from local brewers to chain restaurants.
For West Palm Beach locals, The West Palm Beach Brewery and Wine Vault celebrated the day with $5 beer all day long.
The 15-month-old local craft brewery has quickly made a mark on the city as well as South Florida. The award-winning brewery is actively working to become a staple of the community and stay ahead of the big beer companies, such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.
“People get excited about good, quality stuff,” Director of Development and Dog Greeting Robert Bodwell said.
As of 2017, the Anheuser-Busch company owns 46 percent of beer sales in the United States, according to the Brewer’s Association. The company produces popular beers like Budweiser and Bud Lite. However, craft beers have crept up on the giants, now becoming major players in the beer market.
The West Palm Beach Brewery and Wine Vault on Evernia Street in the heart of downtown is one of the latest additions to the Florida craft beer scene. It has already caught attention for winning Best Florida Beer Pro 2019 for their 561 Heferweisen.
These breweries have many elements which result from the local and controllable nature, giving them a leg up on the big beer companies.
“We want to control the entire experience,” Bodwell said. “We are able to keep things exciting.”
Unlike how big beer companies mass produce only a select batch of beer, the WPB brewery is able to constantly change and update beers, sometimes with different treatments such as coffee or raspberry. They control the brewing process, the packaging and ultimately the final pour into the glass.
“The beer’s always new,” Bodwell said. “It’s always fresh.”
The WPB Brewery and Wine Vault makes all its beers in buildings that locals can visit to taste a blonde ale or the Heferweisen. The owners, operators and brewers oversee the process from gathering the ingredients to the perfect pour. It is not only a bar or wine cellar, but also it is a family-friendly restaurant widening the target audience and appeal.
The WPB Brewery has worked since its establishment with the city of West Palm Beach to make the brewery a unique addition to the downtown center.
The brewery sees little changes with the notorious seasonal nature of the city. Local West Palm Beach residents stream in and out of the brewery daily.
The brewery also pays rent for a parking lot directly adjacent to its building on Evernia Street. This premium in the middle of downtown is a major player in the success and popularity of the post-work stop.
“Our goal is to make the service the best in the area,” Bodwell said.
Chad Reeves, the director of operations and general manager of the brewery, has transformed the philosophy of the restaurant.
“Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” Reeves says.
In order to widen its customer base, the brewery hosts events such as block parties at various times throughout the year, sponsors local festivals or games and even partners with local entities for special events. On the first weekend of March Madness, the brewery brought basketball hoops for customers to practice their shot while watching the tournament.
The brewery employs a grassroots philosophy where it goes out and gets the product in people's hands. Instead of relying on mass marketing like Bud Lite or Corona, the brewery uses social media and community engagement to advertise its product.
“We want to activate our community by going out and being in it,” Bodwell said.
Community outreach, help from the city, on-site quality control and restaurant philosophy play key roles in the continued success of the WPB Brewery and Wine Vault. While big beer has the luxury of mass marketing and rapid production, quality seems to win out over quantity.
By Maddie Coggins