Toast to the town
New Cape Canaveral distillery pays homage to its local roots
The story of Brevard’s first spirits distillery doesn’t include 100-year-old recipes, family ties or even years of experience in the industry.
But it is one of diligence, perseverance and meticulous attention to detail — something owner and founder Ron Foleno strives daily to perfect.
Oceanside Distillery, just minutes south of the port and State Road 528 on West Central Boulevard in Cape Canaveral, started as a dream for longtime Brevard residents the Foleno brothers.
They wanted to make craft spirits that would be unique to the area and could be created by tapping into the very best regional ingredients, using the best oak barrels and utilizing the industry’s most advanced distilling equipment and techniques.
In February 2020, after nearly three years plus of research, training, planning and eventually constructing, the dream project was set to open.
PLANS PUT ON HOLD
However, because of the pandemic, and, sadly, the death of Foleno’s brother and partner, Lorenzo, the opening was delayed. Foleno, who has more than 30 years of commercial construction experience, began the venture in 2018 and officially opened the distillery on May 27.
Driven to continue his dream, he not only designed and furnished the facility but did most of the work himself. He even created the design for the bottle labels.
“This project is like my second career and my new responsibilities of wearing many hats [as the CEO, manager, brand and logo designer, chief tour guide, distillery chemist and marketing guy] have been challenging, but I really enjoy every aspect of this venture,” he admitted.
“Once the City of Cape Canaveral overwhelmingly approved the zoning, we got to work and the result, I believe, is now the operation of one of the most secure and safe distilleries in the Southeast.”
Oceanside Distillery boasts an extensive fire detection system with ethanol devices and a series of fresh air and exhaust systems, all of which are mandatory.
“After interning at many of the country’s well-known, small-batch distilleries and spending hours at training seminars, as well as researching everything from the equipment I am using to the recipes for the hand-crafted spirits, to say the least, I’ve learned a lot,” Foleno said.
The spacious and tastefully decorated main room features a large bar with surrounding tables for additional seating, and an adjacent retail space. Behind
the reception counter, shelves are lined with the hand-crafted spirits, T-shirts, hats, shot glasses and other merchandise.
The walls are painted with beachy pastels accented with coastal décor featuring sea life, palm trees, a cruise ship and space murals, and even one of his vintage longboards.
The kitchen is open daily and features light fare, native to Florida items such as crab cakes, Florida shrimp, mahi fish dip, as well as panini sandwiches, charcuterie cheeseboards and more.
“The meeting room, an area designed to host special parties for corporate or small group events, etc., features several antique copper pot stills my grandfather used to concoct various wines, grappa, pear brandy and other moonshine with,” Foleno said.
“He was definitely my inspiration for this project. My grandfather was an immigrant from Italy, who arrived in the U.S. back in 1905 and worked for the Ford Motor Company.”
MURAL ADDS CHARACTER
The next room, one that leads to the back warehouse, is filled with dozens of boxes of the bottled spirits stacked to the ceiling, and features a stunning mural of a bright red ’50s-era Ford, a replica of his grandfather’s truck, filled with barrels and set in a scenic countryside background.
Painted by Rick Shores of Cape Canaveral, this unique and spectacular wall mural provides a great photo opportunity for visitors, and is something many say adds to the distillery’s character.
In the warehouse, three fermenters are lined up next to the huge computer-operated still [approximately 15 feet tall] equipped with the latest technology from Apple Inc.
“This is where I start the presentation about the intricate process of making the spirits; where all the details about the heating, cooling, timing, filtration and length of fermentation are explained … part of the actual Distilling Spirits 101 class that comes with the tour,” Foleno said.
“Though it can be a lot to comprehend, the whole process of creating spirits is actually pretty simple,” he explained. “It all comes down to these factors and the ingredients used.”
ONLY THE FRESHEST
Oceanside’s silver rum is made with natural sugar cane juice, dehydrated and rendered into panela, a 100 percent natural raw sugar. The result is a creamy, textured taste with notes of citrus peel, ripe bananas and a tad of vanilla.
“My brother loved the ’70s song, Moon Dance, by Van Morrison, so we decided to name this first batch of rum after this song,” he said.
Oceanside’s first vodka product was named 28 Degrees North after the actual latitude of Brevard County.
Making spirits that are flavorful with the proper amount of additives can be as challenging as the distilling and fermentation process itself, according to Foleno.
Located in a back corner of the warehouse, across from the still and fermenting equipment, is Foleno’s mini-laboratory where he creates the many flavorings that are added to the liquor.
“We are using organic orange, lemon and grapefruit peel products from a source in Fort Pierce to make our Coastal Citrus Gin. All of our vodkas and whiskeys use Florida corn,” he added.
The distillery also has been awarded the state Department of Agriculture’s Fresh from Florida designation.
AGING IS KEY
Last but not least, the barrel storage room, which is kept at a constant 80 degrees, is where the aging process happens.
The barrels are made of American white oak, air-dried for 24 months and manufactured by Kelvin Cooperage of Kentucky.
Oceanside’s double-barrel Odysea Bourbon, a 21 percent rye and 75 percent corn mix, was one of the first brands Oceanside Distillery created.
“Aging is the key to creating fine whiskey and bourbon, and of course, the time spent in the barrels and temperature of the room where the spirits are stored can make a huge difference in the outcome,” he said.
Rum infused espresso coffee is on the list as a future offering along with honey whiskey, which will be produced with Florida orange blossom honey, a straight rye whiskey and toasted coconut rum.
Be sure to check them out!
If you go …
240 W. Central Blvd., Cape Canaveral
Hours: Monday and Tuesday: closed; Wednesday: 2-6 p.m.; Thursday: 1-7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 1-8 p.m.; and Sunday: 1-6 p.m.
Cost: $20 per person and includes a complimentary shot glass, samples and a craft cocktail for those of legal drinking age
For more information: Call 321.613.4003 or visit www.oceansidedistillery.com
Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.