If you could go back in time to pick a worse date to open a new business than May 2, 2020, Coastal Karma Brewing proprietors Charles and Sara Chase would like to know what date that would be.
The married couple had little choice but to open their Lake Park brewery as scheduled just as the COVID-19 pandemic was cresting. Which meant only cautious, temporary attendance that made its large main room seem even more empty, because masked customers could only be served the couple’s specialty craft brews in plastic cups and then consume the beer outdoors.
“It took us a year before that to build this place out, and then we had a lot of problems with our electrical engineer that delayed us opening,” Charles says. “It took about six months just to complete the electricity.”
“We signed our lease in March of 2019,” Sara adds, “and could’ve opened before COVID-19 if not for those delays. But, of course, we still had to pay rent after the signing and throughout the pandemic.”
It’s only slightly more than two years since that signing, and a year past the brewery’s opening date, but it seems like light years removed as the couple speaks on an early Friday evening in June. They’re seated at the back corner of the establishment’s lengthy bar, without masks, as the brewery fills with patrons, most of them also without masks.
Draft beers are flowing, and served in pint and tulip-style glasses, not plastic cups. A few people are seated outside by choice, and also perusing the fare of the evening’s food truck, Krazy Cuban Flavor. Coastal Karma rotates its food trucks, which appear every Thursday through Sunday, and also serves wines, hard seltzers, non-alcoholic water, soda, coffee and tea, plus snacks. The bartender is Jocelyn, who also is its 10:30 a.m. Saturday yoga instructor (the $20 fee for a class includes a pour of your choice afterward).
And in between Charles and Sara, lying directly on that bar, is Kismet, the stray cat that adopted the couple by wandering in and making himself at home only a couple months earlier. Signs on the front door and inside offer fair but unnecessary warnings about the affectionate “brewery cat,” mostly to make sure any canines entering the dog-friendly watering hole are kept on leashes. Kismet, you see, only considers himself a prospective threat to inquisitive unleashed dogs.
“He’s blind in one eye and has no teeth,” Sara says. “He has almost everything imaginable wrong with him, but we give him IVs three times a week, and he’s put on seven pounds since we first met him. Our customers have been great in donating toward his vet bills, too.”
The Chases, married since December 2019, seem made for this juncture. The West Palm Beach-born Charles is a longtime home brewer and beer festival frequenter who met the Naples-born Sara, a veteran of the restaurant industry, at her workplace while he had a job as a touring beer distributor.
“Charles was my beer rep,” Sara says, “when I was managing a restaurant in Vero Beach.”
“When I decided that I wanted to get into the craft beer industry,” Charles says, “I wanted to go through all the facets. So in addition to the home brewing I was doing, I worked for World of Beers as a product manager, and Brown Distributing as a craft beer rep. And I love what I’m doing now. It’s all about putting flavors together, and seeing what works creatively and traditionally.”
Housed in an otherwise nondescript strip mall near the intersection of 10th Street and Park Avenue in Lake Park, in which there are as many vacancies as operating businesses, Coastal Karma’s interior practically defies typification. The floor is ornately tiled; the walls stylishly wood paneled, and there are comfortable couches and chairs throughout in addition to its picnic tables.
Model ships built by Charles’s father are a draw throughout. And a portion of the interior features artificial turf with a series of swings hanging from the ceiling, a major draw for the children who visit the family-friendly brewery before it becomes 21-and-over at 7 p.m. daily.
“I wanted an outdoor space,” Sara says, “so this was how we brought the outdoors indoors. But we’ve been approved to build a deck out front, so we’ll eventually have a real outdoor as well as indoor area.”
The couple looked through the Northwood Village section of West Palm Beach, plus Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens, before finding Lake Park to be the right fit for their blend of beer, beach and metaphysics.
“We went to town meetings in Lake Park,” says Charles, “and everyone was great. We told them our idea of opening a brewery, and they were very supportive and welcoming.”
“Their interior is warm and inviting,” says Dawn René Chadwick, a law professional who lives in Palm Beach Gardens. “And I liked the Oogie Boogie wheat ale, which was tangy with a hint of orange.”
“They have friendly bartenders and a cozy atmosphere,” says John Hansen, a print shop owner who lives within walking distance in Lake Park.
Coastal Karma offers a variety of those rotating beers, including the Day Drinker by the Noble Brewing Company, which is run by James Noble, former proprietor of the Orange Door, the black-box theater that presented live music in the same plaza from 2005-2012. Other popular selections include India pale ales like the Karma Hoptra and Wicked Hoppy, the Professor Pickles Tart Ale, and stouts like Good Karma and Chocolate Starfish.
Instead of offering traditional glass growlers, Coastal Karma specializes in “crowlers,” which are sealed 32-ounce cans of beer. There’s also its Mug Club, in which customers who sign on get a customized beer mug and various other perks over its three different levels.
Small-town Lake Park and its surrounding area has joined the big time recently regarding craft breweries. When COVID-19 practically shut down the live music-and-art-centered Brewhouse Gallery only a few blocks away last year, its owners kept it afloat, in part, by opening their Kelsey City Brewing Company. A forthcoming NOBO Brewing Company site is under construction in the building adjacent to the Brewhouse Gallery’s plaza.
Not far away, Twisted Trunk Brewing is well-established in Palm Beach Gardens, as is Skunkworts Brewing in West Palm Beach’s Northwood section, and Stormhouse Brewing recently opened nearby in North Palm Beach.
Rather than viewing the other breweries as competition, the Chases frequent them and take the karmic route.
“We all talk to each other and help each other out if we have questions,” Charles says. “That being said, the more breweries there are in an area, the more important it becomes to offer something special, whether it’s the beer, the atmosphere, or both.”
“That’s true,” Sara adds, “but I also think that having multiple breweries in this area brings more people around than if it was just us.”
Live music at Coastal Karma has been sporadic through the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has been at most other venues, but the Chases say it’ll pick up as the virus continues to recede. Upcoming events in July include the Fox & Foes Band on July 16, the Leafy Greens on July 18, and Silent Disco (in which people dance to music played by a deejay that they hear only on wireless headphones, rather than an amplified speaker system) on July 23. The same deejay also hosts the venue’s popular bingo nights from 7-9 p.m. on Thursdays.
And on August 7, Coastal Karma Brewing will host its official delayed one-year anniversary celebration.
“That will be a good day of partying,” Sara says. “Instead of doing it in May, when we actually opened but had to essentially serve everything to go, we decided to celebrate in August, when out taproom was finally able to open regularly. We’ll have two bands that day and into the evening; two or three food trucks, and glow-in-the-dark ax-throwing that night.”
If You Go
Coastal Karma Brewing is located at 796 10th St., Suite 798, in Lake Park.
Hours: 3-8 p.m. Mondays; 3-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 3-11 p.m. Fridays; noon-11 p.m. Saturdays after the 10:30 a.m. yoga; noon-8 p.m. Sundays.
Info: 561-249-1491; www.coastalkarmabrewery.com.