The Lost Story of Regional Breweries in Florida

October 12, 2017

A "regional brewery" can be described as one that distributes to particular regions on a smaller basis than the nationwide breweries many of us are familiar with today. According to the Brewers Association, a regional craft brewery is one with an annual production level between 15,000 and 6 million barrels. Currently, the Florida Beer Company and Cigar City Brewing are the only regional craft breweries operating in Florida.


Regal Brewery (1934 - 1974)


City: Miami, Florida
Capacity: 350,000 annual barrels



The recently closed Regal Brewery buildings (mid left) adjacent to the I-95/SR 836 interchange in 1975.  (State Archives of Florida).

Down in Miami, the City Ice and Fuel Company saw the end of prohibition has an opportunity to diversity its business.  Right after the ratification of the 21st Amendment, City Ice established the Wagner Brewing Company at 637 NW 13th Street in the city's Overtown neighborhood.  Brewing started in 1934 and within four years, the company acquired the Pilsener Brewing Company of Cleveland and a large interest in New Orleans-based American Brewing Company. In business since 1890, American's most successful brand was Regal (lager spelled backwards) Beer. This led to Wagner being rebranded as the Regal Brewery. For years, its rooftop neon "Regal" sign dominated the southwest corner of I-95 and SR 836.


A Regal Brewery can filling machine in 1967.  (State Archives of Florida).

20 years later, Anheuser-Busch acquired the brewery with intentions to use all of its capacity to produce Budweiser for distribution in South Florida.  After losing an anti-trust suit due to the federal government declaring the sale would give them a monopoly on beer production and distribution, Busch sold the brewery to Baltimore's National Brewing Company.  National used the brewery to produce Regal and other brands such as Colt .45 malt liquor.  In 1974, National decided to shut down the aging 350,000 barrel a year plant, in favor of its 2 million barrel a year Baltimore brewery picking up the slack.  The closure resulted in the lost of 107 manufacturing jobs.  Unlike the regional breweries in Pensacola, Tampa and Jacksonville, Miami's closed brewery would not sit empty for long.  By the 1980s, it had been razed.


Stacks of Colt 45 inside Miami's Regal Brewery in 1967.  (State Archives of Florida).


Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com

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