Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending | To the Earth we Return
As the years go by, Marco Leyte-Vidal, owner and head brewer of Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, has found himself returning to the Earth by focusing more on family, friends and exploring his creativity. Marco has worked to remove the clutter and noise that so easily surrounds us, sought peace in simplicity and has grown in the quiet moments of his life. It was returning to this analog way of life that inspired Marco to create “To The Earth We Return.”
It was a Sunday night when we were welcomed into Marco’s home to drink some beers and talk about the future of Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, his brewery that will be opening early- to mid-summer in the Westchester neighborhood of Miami. We were greeted by him and his daughter Sophia, who was in a satchel wrapped around his chest, his son Oliver who was playing games on an iPad, and the low hum of a Miles Davis vinyl record playing in the background. As soon as we entered his home, his priorities were crystal clear–no matter what, Marco was a father first. After sharing two previously brewed beers–Magic Keys, which was a sour red ale, and an unnamed experiment, which was a Brettanomyces-fermented Kolsch–we talked about Marco’s thought process and what led him to brew those beers, what drew him to mixed culture fermentation and what the public can look forward to in the near future.
But before we learn more about what the future holds, we have to jump back to the past to find out what brought Marco and Vicky, his co-founder/ wife, to create Unseen Creatures. “When I started drinking, I was almost exclusively a wine drinker,” says Marco. “I loved the story of wine from start to finish. Meaning that before they could even start to produce the wine, they would have to care for the soil, the vines, the grapes, and only after all that had been tended to, would they be able to begin the process of making wine. It was romantic to me and I fell in love with the idea that a beverage could tell a story and bring about purpose.” After opening his horizons to different styles of beer, a friend started getting Marco into German lagers; soon after drinking these different styles of beer, he stumbled across Belgian Lambics and Czech Pilsners as well and became hooked. On the American perspective of beers, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale kept him coming back for more. Marco started doing some research and found himself going down the rabbit hole for information on the inception of American craft beer, as well as the new breweries that were in their infancy that had been telling their stories through their beer. It was in that vein that Marco decided to start Craft Commander, a website dedicated to sharing the stories behind some of the country’s most unique breweries.
Marco became eager for information that he could find in wine publications. Publications that would tell the story about the producers in the industry, why the producer went into wine-making, what inspired them, how those inspirations influenced their wine and the little details that built the story behind the final product. After doing research and taking plenty of notes, Marco then searched for breweries that were unique and doing things in their own special way and he started hosting live conversations on his YouTube channel, “The Craft Commander” with brewers and brewery owners who had a story to tell about themselves through their beer. The creation of Craft Commander paid off in twofold. First, Marco learned more about beer and what made these unique breweries so successful, and second, without even realizing it, he had made special friendships with so many amazing people in the industry, many of whom were the inspiration and motivation behind the opening of Unseen Creatures. “All of our friends at other breweries have been so gracious with their time and knowledge; I am extremely appreciative and grateful to be joining such a unique and welcoming community.”
Marco has always favored creativity and artistry over rules and function. It’s great to have guidelines for certain things, but terrible for others, and that’s where Vicky comes in. Being a CPA, she has been the perfect balance to Marco’s skill set. She’s sharp and can cut through the numbers like a surgeon. While Marco can drift off into dreamland with his imagination, thinking up recipes and the next addition to the brewery, Vicky reigns him in with her realistic outlook and keeps him in line. Marco made one thing perfectly clear through our conversation, “if it wasn’t for Vicky’s ability to create the parameters that [they] needed to play within, this project would have never gotten up off the ground.”
Marco developed his skills in brewing for years before he decided to take the plunge into opening his own spot. The first batches he brewed were his attempts to recreate the first American craft beer he fell in love with, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. After brewing a few batches, he realized that he really didn’t want to brew that specific beer, because in the back of his head he had thought “I could get this beer whenever I wanted.” What Marco really wanted to do was put his own spin on it, by making the beer his own and learning to tell a story through what he would be pouring into the glasses of many in the near future.
To accomplish and fine-tune his story, Marco started tweaking his recipes little by little and changing things based on what he would want in an everyday drinking beer. This motivated Marco to hyper-focus his efforts on creating beers that he would be able to call his own and use to tell his stories; he would give his beers his own character–his thumbprint–but would always leave room to explore different flavors and sensations, whether the beer was a barrel-fermented mixed culture beer, or a clean, easy-to-drink Pale Ale. To this day, Marco is still learning and admits he still has a long way to go, but he’s excited about where they have been and where they are headed.
After looking down at our empty glasses, Marco invited us to his refrigerator to pour glasses of “To the Earth we Return.” This is a 7% ABV IPA, hopped with Citra and El Dorado hops. Seeing the first pour from the keg straight to our glasses was an experience in and of itself. The beer poured, foamed up gloriously and looked as if it was a commercial shoot with the beer filling the glass, swirling and foaming around the brewery’s branded snifters in slow motion. A hazy golden hue filled the glass with the aroma of hops wafting far above the liquid and straight to our noses. Once we sat to taste the beer, it was nothing short of exemplary. “To The Earth We Return” completely washes over your pallet as you take your first sip and has a creamy/juicy medium to medium-full body with notes of mango, citrus and a resonating hop bitterness that continues to dance on the back of your tongue well after your first sip. It was a layered, complex beer, but as Marco explained: “this beer is actually somewhat restrained; I scaled back on the ingredients and only used two hops that I thought would jump right out at you.”
As we began to discuss the reasoning behind the name “To the Earth we Return,” Marco explained that “as I get older I find myself constantly trying to strip down all the material things that surround me. I would rather trade a constant connection to technology for a more natural, simple and analog way of living. I would rather trade nights out drinking and partying these days for nights at home with my family.” The biggest takeaway from the evening was the fact that “To the Earth we Return” represents the birth of an idea becoming reality.
Photos courtesy of Unseen Creatures Brewing & Blending, Beer Trekker & Brewtography Project