Meet the Brewers: Jorge Rosabal of Darwin Brewing

A unique Bradenton brewery adds South American spice to the scene.

click to enlarge Meet the Brewers: Jorge Rosabal of Darwin Brewing - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Meet the Brewers: Jorge Rosabal of Darwin Brewing

When most brewers decide to put their own beer out there, their main goals, generally speaking, are to satisfy both themselves and other beer lovers.

Jorge Rosabal had a much more specific aim: to create brews that paired perfectly with the Peruvian-inflected fare at one of Sarasota’s most revered restaurants, the hip and exotic Darwin’s on 4th. Born in Cuba, educated in the art of brewing in Munich and fresh from 15 years running a 2.5 million-barrel facility in Honduras, Rosabal was tapped by award-winning chef Darwin Santa Maria to provide the ultimate beverages for his flavors in 2012.

“It was pretty fun,” says Rosabal, now co-owner and brewmaster of Darwin Brewing Company. “We got together [with Santa Maria] every week, sit together, and we’d fight a lot. He’d want to put some stuff in my beer, I’d say no, and then I’d agree, because he’s got a great mind.”

The collaboration led to a series of extremely successful multiple-course pairing dinners and several beer-competition medals; within two years, Rosabal and Darwin co-owner and manger Matt Cornelius grew out of the restaurant’s in-house seven-barrel brewing system, and into a 15-barrel production facility and tasting room in Bradenton, across the street from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training ballpark.

At their new digs (open since May), Rosabal and Cornelius have expanded their lineup of brews without sacrificing the unique elements that make their core beers — like the flavorful, deceptively light Charapa spiced porter and complex Ayawasca Belgian dubbel — so different from other breweries’ offerings. They’ve also instituted a pilot program for young brewers, branched out into distribution beyond the region and become an active participant in the craft beer scene north of the Skyway.

“We definitely feel like part of the Tampa Bay brewery community,” says Cornelius. “We go every year to Tampa Bay Beer Week, we go to the halfway festival. We do collaborations. Just the general sentiment of the people in the industry — we don’t fight each other, we help each other.

“We’re just happy to be offering something unique in this amazing beer scene.”

Favorite local beer that isn’t theirs: Rosabal: “I’m drinking my beers all the time. But actually the Circus City IPA from [Sarasota brewery] Big Top, I like that one.” Cornelius: “It depends on what you call local ... Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Reef Donkey is a beer I’ve been drinking a lot of. Rapp is amazing, I also like Green Bench’s Saison de Banc Vert, Cigar City’s Invasion [pale ale].”

Their signature Darwin beer: Rosabal: “We’ll go with the Charapa [spiced porter]. With the Peruvian peppers and chocolate, it’s just unique.” Cornelius: “It shows where we came from with the South American influence, and that we try to be distinct, different and memorable. The flavor profiles, that’s what we hang our hats on.”

Darwin Brewing Night at The Burg
Saturday, Jan. 10, 6-9 p.m. at The Burg Bar & Grill
1752 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; 727-894-2874, 

Darwin Brewing Co.
803 17th Ave. W., Bradenton