A leisurely pace, picturesque beaches, and active fishing communities define Florida’s Treasure Coast. As the first brewery in the area, Sailfish Brewing Company reflects the region’s ambiance. Steps from the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown Fort Pierce’s Edgartown neighborhood, Sailfish’s brewery and taproom reside in two converted historic homes, side by side on the intimate property.
Visiting Sailfish feels like attending a lively get-together at a friend’s beach house. On a typical evening, the taproom is brimming with locals, eager to taste the latest additions to their rotating tap list. In the backyard, customers sip pints around a roaring bonfire, under a canopy of tropical flora.
This local favorite recently celebrated two years in business. Since opening their doors in April 2012, their growing success has proven the Treasure Coast to be a great location. In the midst of Florida’s craft beer explosion, Nick Bischoff and co-owner David BuShea, Jr. saw huge potential for local craft beer in Fort Pierce. “There wasn’t a single brewery in our region, which I thought was ridiculous,” said Bischoff. “This is a beautiful area with a proud industrial history and that culture has really helped advance us.”
Home brewing and offshore fishing had been long-time hobbies of Bischoff’s, thus Sailfish pays homage to the coast’s maritime culture through its aptly named flagship beers, the White Marlin Wit, Black Sail Black IPA, and Sunrise City IPA. “We care about the two liquids first and foremost: the beer and the ocean,” he explained.
While the flagships can be found on draught in bars throughout the area, craft beer fans should make a trip to the brewery to sample their superb limited release ales. With brewer Al Beltran at the helm of production, Sailfish consistently creates uniquely delicious recipes. “One of our specialties, the Lionfish Pale Ale, is brewed with lime, cilantro, and jalapeno. It goes so fast, we can hardly keep it on tap,” Bischoff said.
Some of the more experimental beers come from their “Pelagic” and “Goliath” series, a line of pale ales and higher gravity concoctions, respectively. And, fans will be excited to learn that the Mahi Mahi Wheat, brewed with local cucumber and eucalyptus, will be back this summer. Bischoff’s mantra, “Keep the local community happy with new, out-of-the-box beers” seems to work.
Though his beer quickly grew popular, Bischoff was determined to take things slowly in the beginning. “We started in my garage, and then upgraded to a one-barrel brewing system,” he explained. “With the explosion we’re dealing with in the craft beer market, the people who didn’t take the time to learn and went straight to the big system are the people who are going to hurt the industry,” he said. “We’ve always held true to the fact that you have to crawl, then walk, then run.” The two-year effort to develop their brand and refine their brewing style paid off, as Sailfish doubled their sales in the last year.
Sailfish’s relationship with distributors has been key in their road to success. “A lot of breweries take the distributors for granted, but we don’t,” Bischoff said. “They’ve helped us grow in the community, because they’ve sheltered a lot of our cost of retail expansion.” Without the three-tier system, Sailfish would have had to buy trucks, pay drivers, purchase additional insurance, print signage and work tirelessly to break into the local retail scene, something that could have broken the bank before they even got started. Sailfish’s distributor provides those services, and more.
Bischoff has been impressed with the amount of personal attention Southern Eagle Distributing has given them from the beginning. “Even though we started small, they treat us as if we’re the size of someone like Sweetwater,” he explained, “Southern Eagle Distributing has been a great conduit to bars and retailers in the Treasure Coast.”
Now, Bischoff and team are ready to take their next step. “We’re excited to partner with Carroll Distributing Company to expand our distribution north into Indian River and Brevard Counties,” Bischoff announced.
Ron Chabot, On-premise Craft Brand Manager at Carroll Distributing, added, “We are excited that Sailfish is near completing its brewery expansion. Residents and visitors of the Space Coast should keep an eye out for Sailfish at area pubs as we will be distributing draught of White Marlin Wit, Sunrise City IPA and other rotating brands.”
Sailfish will upgrade to a thirty barrel brewing system this year in order to keep up with the demand, as well as explore canning. “Being fishermen, we know you don’t bring glass bottles onto boats,” Bischoff noted. With the expansion on the production side of the business, Sailfish will add a new location, but the original taproom and brewery will remain in operation, showcasing the creative selection of which customers have grown so fond.
If you have yet to visit this Treasure Coast gem, we recommend a group of friends and a few cold Sailfish brews.