Like the frothy head on a pint of European lager, Steam Horse Brewing adds a crowning touch to West Palm Beach’s burgeoning Warehouse District. The urban dining and lifestyle complex that includes Grandview Public Market welcomes the craft beer brewery and bar Wednesday, Aug. 15.
And thanks to the brewery’s north county siblings, Steam Horse will roll in with instant cred. The venture into West Palm is a calculated leap for the duo of beer devotees behind Tequesta Brewing Company and Twisted Trunk Brewing – they believe the city’s brew scene is expanding in exciting ways.
“We saw the potential. This whole place is going to be pretty on fire,” said Steam Horse’s co-owner Fran Andrewlevich during a walk through the industrial-hip brewery space last week.
After meeting with the developers behind the reimagined district, he and brew partner Matt Webster were sold. A full-on block party is planned for Saturday, Aug. 18, when Steam Horse will join its district neighbors, Grandview and Elizabeth Ave Station, in celebrating the brewery’s arrival.
Beer lovers can expect a brewery that’s also a funky bar and taproom, all set in a warehouse that’s revamped to evoke a vintage railway spirit. They also can expect a range of beer styles, from red IPAs to porters to sours to New England-style double IPAs. And there’s the refreshing lager Steam Horse has been brewing for weeks at Twisted Trunk and canning in small batches – it will be a mainstay at the new brewery, says Andrewlevich.
Spread across 6000 square feet of warehouse space, Steam Horse is about the same size as Twisted Trunk. If it feels more spacious than the PGA Boulevard brewery that’s because the taproom is bigger, a sign that the brewers are expecting a livelier scene.
“The proximity to I-95 is great. You get off the exit and you could be sitting down, having a beer in five minutes,” says Andrewlevich.
Steam Horse debuts as Palm Beach County’s brewery landscape continues to grow more lively, eclectic and lucrative. According to the most recent figures from the national Brewers Association, Florida ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to the economic impact of the state’s breweries. That’s economic impact to the tune of $3.1 billion, according to the association that represents small and independent craft brewers. In Palm Beach County, there are close to 20 operating or planned breweries, five of those in West Palm.
The newest among them is Steam Horse, which takes its name from the smoke-billowing locomotives that once chugged through the district. The phantoms of those “steam horses” run along the back of the brewery, where an abandoned rail spur points to the Grandview Public Market down the block. Brewery customers can take the newly manicured gravel path to the food hall, plastic beer cup in hand. There are also plans for food delivery from Grandview to Steam Horse.
It’s an interesting time for the duo of master brewers behind Steam Horse. In many ways, their story is the story of how the craft beer scene came to be in Palm Beach County.
Andrewlevich is a pioneer of South Florida’s craft beer universe, a former cook who got his start as a brewer at the old Irish Times brew pub in Palm Beach Gardens. It was the early 1990s and the now-defunct neighborhood pub housed the county’s only craft beer brewery. Andrewlevich, who had fled small-town Pennsylvania after high school for what he hoped would be a big-city life, started as a volunteer, essentially working for free beer.
He came to town as a newly minted cook from Johnson & Wales’ now-closed Charleston campus and took a job at the former Parker’s Lighthouse on PGA Boulevard. Irish Times was his after-shift hangout before it was the spark of a brewing career. And when a small brewery in Key West rang for help, he took on that project as well, traveling to the southernmost city monthly to make beer.
When Irish Times closed, he accepted a job as head brewer at a shiny, new microbrewery and pub called Brewzzi, first in Boca Raton, then at CityPlace. (Both locations are now closed.)
But it wasn’t until Andrewlevich teamed up with Matt Webster, a longtime home brewer who was making beer at Tequesta’s Corner Café, that the local beer world tilted. Their collaboration coincided with a loosening in state brewery regulations that had stemmed the dreams of dedicated microbreweries.
They opened Tequesta Brewing Company in the space next to Corner Café. It was the first such microbrewery in South Florida, notes Andrewlevich. But, truth be told, Tequesta seemed a sleepy choice for a brewery location, he recalls.
“I had driven through Tequesta but I don’t think I ever stopped there in my life. I said, ‘Matt, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m sold on the beer and I’m sold on the space, but the only thing I’m not sold on is Tequesta,’” he says.
Turns out, as north county beer geeks streamed into the brewery nightly, Tequesta sold him on Tequesta.
Industrial West Palm is a different planet, though. For one, parking is iffy. As the district gets more popular, visitors are often left to scrounge for a parking space on nearby streets.
Andrewlevich shrugs it off.
“It’s all part of the urban charm,” he says. “Down here, everybody Ubers. Everybody gets around. People figure it out.”
IF YOU GO: STEAM HORSE BREWING
- Opening day: Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 4 p.m.
- Block party: Saturday, Aug. 18, from 6 p.m. to midnight
- Location: 1500 Elizabeth Ave., West Palm Beach. (The Warehouse District is located less than a mile southwest of the Kravis Center. The brewery sits west of Parker Avenue on Elizabeth Avenue, between Caroline and Blanche streets.)