Metro Jacksonville's Kristen Pickrell interviews Engine 15 Brewing Company's co-founder Luciano Scremin to learn the story behind the business and their Myrtle Avenue brewery expansion plans.
The following responses are from Luciano Scremin, one of the two founding business partners in the recently initiated expansion of Engine 15 Brewery Company, to be located at 601 and 633 North Myrtle Avenue near Downtown. Both Scremin, and buisness partner Sean Bielman, are Jacksonville locals, good friends, and beer enthusiasts, who have worked hard to share their passion with the city of Jacksonville.
Tell me a little bit of the history behind the business- who founded it, when, why, etc.
Luciano Scremin: Well this whole idea of opening a brewery started a long time ago. I started to home-brew in college (at JU) and kinda fooled around with it on and off. Back in 2007 I really got into again with a real passion. Not long after I met Sean Bielman, my business partner, and we started brewing together along with a bunch of other denizens here at the beach. Sean and I really hit it off and we became good friends and really lamented the lack of craft beer available at the Beach at the time so we decided we would open a beer bar and brewery in Jacksonville Beach. We are both real do it yourself kind of guys, gear head, engineer types. We both love vintage everything and doing things the old fashioned way. So the name came from a 1962 Ford Fire truck that I own, it's oldschool and they just don't make stuff like that anymore.
What's the new location like? And why there?
LS: The new location is totally rad, it’s everything we love. Old and neglected but beautiful and one of a kind just begging for someone to come along and give it a new life and that is what we are going to do. It has everything we need and it was a long road to finding it. I could tell you the story but that is a whole other conversation, I'll just leave it at we were meant to be together.
How hard has this project been in terms of paperwork, permits, grants, and the works?
LS: Well I have to say that when we first started out to open our first location in 2009 our learning curve was steep, although we all brought different talents to the table there was a lot that none of us had done before so it took some time to navigate. Sean and I learned a lot and we are still. You hear so much about government red tape, etc. but really everyone we have dealt with since we started in 2010 has been very helpful. Almost everyone we worked with in various government agencies, the community and within our own walls wanted to help us get going and keep growing and of course do it the correct way. There are regulations and they are there for a reason so I don't really mind the "jumping" through the hoops to get things done. I am lucky to have my very supportive and helpful wife, Kara. She has been a driving and guiding force for us, there is no way this would have happened without her.
What are the visions for the future of this location, and the business as a whole?
LS: The future of this new location is bringing our passion to more people. That passion is not only great beer but our idea of what a business should be and how it should integrate into the community as a whole. We have engaged with many organizations to do charitable and community events since the day we opened. We do a beer with a different charity every quarter and donate the proceeds of the sales to their cause. This not only allows us to give funds but also raise awareness of the cause. But best of all we get to host members of the organization in our brewery for the day when we all brew the beer together. This way we get to learn more about them and what they do and vice versa. We strive to be good neighbors and look forward to taking this to our new location.
What can we expect at the new location- What's the menu like? What sort of events will you be hosting?
LS: In the immediate future we will only have a production brewery at our new location that won't be open to the public but we are working on changing that. The big thing is getting approval from zoning to operate a tap room and outdoor space there, then of course there will be actually building it all out. We want to make the location available not only for our customers but for community and charitable events. We have a lot of work ahead of us to make that happen but it will be a labor of love for sure.
Do you plan to bottle or distribute any of your products?
LS: Yes and actually we have already bottled a number of our beers. Our Christmas Quad is in 22oz bottles currently as our seasonal offering, we also recently collaborated with M Hospitality (Medure, Matthews, MShack) to create a Butternut Squash fall seasonal beer which is currently in bottles and on tap and available in their restaurants and our tap room in Jacksonville Beach. We also currently distribute in draft to about 20 accounts locally. We have taken delivery of a new bottling line and plan to bottle more of our beers as well as get into canning shortly.
And how will Engine 15 differentiate itself from other local brewing competitors?
LS: Being the only Brewery in Jacksonville with two locations, one a smaller pub oriented brewery and the other a larger production facility. Will allow us to dedicate our Jacksonville Beach pub brewery to doing really interesting "one off" type beers, really fun and experimental beers and be able to really listen to our customers and take in their feedback to come up with even more beers they will like and enjoy. Having the larger production brewery to task with then taking the best of those experiments and brew them for wider distribution is a real game changer. Beer drinkers in Jacksonville will be able to taste our beers all over town and if they like what they have they can go to the source and maybe check out something totally off the wall as far as beer goes. But as far as competitors we are really lucky in the craft beer business, especially here in Jacksonville. We all have a really collaborative relationship and view of craft beer in general, so it's going to be great being downtown and closer to beer scene there.
Inside the Myrtle Avenue warehouse. Image courtesy of Engine 15's facebook page.
Interview by Kristen Pickrell