Having had several conversations with Michael myself, and having tasted several of his brews, I must say that he will be a welcome addition to the growing Jacksonville beer scene. If Jacksonville keeps growing this scene, we will soon be able to rival other well-known beer production cities like Asheville, NC, which has been voted Beer City USA for the past three years by RateBeer.com.
Recently released estimates from the Brewers Association state that there are 1,940 breweries and brew pubs operating in the United States by the end of 2011. This represented a nearly 9% increase over 2010. The craft beer industry also saw a 13% increase in sales in 2011 over 2010. At the same time sales of the major brands continued their long decline.
With the addition of Aardwolf, and the eminent licensing of Pinglehead Brewing (Brewer's Pizza) for distribution, we will soon have five local breweries. If you count St. Augustine as local, we will have six by including Mile Marker Brewery. Throw in brew pubs like Engine 15, brewery restaurants like Ragtime, Seven Bridges, A1A Ale Works, Karibrew, and River City Brewing and you bring the number up to 12. Ashevile only has nine breries now and will have eleven when Sierra Nevada and New Belgium begin operations in a few years.
What does this mean for Jacksonville? It means that, like many other cities that are following the craft beer trends, we are becoming a more mature city and that craft beer cold put us on the map. There are numerous links between craft beer brewers and art, philanthropy, and city pride. Local breweries host dozens of events like the recent Truckies at Bold City, donate to many charitites like the St. John's Riverkeeper, and act as good-will ambassadors to visitors and locals alike.
Craft beer is not only good beer, it is good for our city's image. It can only serve to show the country that we are indeed a city on the move. Support all our local breweries and keep this terrific trend going.