The Craft Breweries of Jacksonville
A look into Northeast Florida's popular craft brewing industry.
Published June 6, 2014 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com
Aardwolf Brewing Company
1461 Hendricks Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Breathing life back into an abandoned building, while still maintaining the aesthetics that made the architecture uniquely charming, is no simple task. Rustic is an understatement when it comes to Aardwolf’s handsome taproom. It would have been easier to tear the building down and start from scratch, but they were determined to renovate and hold onto the charm the old building had. After several years of renovation, Aardwolf’s taproom finally opened in September of last year.
Before he was with Aardwolf, Michael partnered with the Brewer’s Pizza to get them open in Orange Park. He had been working at Terrapin Beer Company in Georgia, and was biding his time until he could open a brewery of his own. Aardwolf is the embodiment of many years of hard work and passion for brewing. Their co-founder, Preben, was working at a natural food market in Five Points when he met Michael:
“…I found a job at Grassroots in Five Points where the owners would eventually impart their love of craft beer to me. It’s through the medium of craft beer sales I met Michael Payne. For about 4 years I had been honing my skills and knowledge of the craft beer industry locally as well as nationally with thoughts of potentially someday seeking a regional marketing position for a craft brewery. Michael approached me about partnering up in opening Aardwolf several years ago. Being able to market your own product, and being a part of the rapidly evolving City of Jacksonville beer scene is the best of all worlds.”
Even though Aardwolf has only been open for less than a year, they are already planning on expanding. They plan to triple their current capacity for the beers sent out to various bars and restaurants. In October, Aardwolf will be holding an event sponsoring local green businesses, here in Jacksonville. This will be their second year running the Green Lion Festival. The taproom often holds events and features local food trucks. They strive to involve themselves in the community, supporting local charities and businesses. It is definitely a place worth enjoying a beer (or glass of wine wine) at.
Keep up to date through their website or their Facebook:
Bold City Brewery
2670 Rosselle St #7
Jacksonville, FL 32204
The moment you step foot into Bold City, you become an honorary member of their extended family. If it’s your first time there, they will give you a free sample of every beer they have on tap, which ranges anywhere from three to nine unique brews. There’s a lot of misconception about beer, especially dark beers. At Bold City, they hope that their sampler might introduce someone to something they wouldn’t normally drink. Their most popular brew is Duke’s brown ale:
“I brew the beers that I like to drink. When I’m out by the pool I’m not going to grab a stout, I want something that I can enjoy… Dukes is number one. Some people come up and ask for the lightest thing we have, and I say they should try the brown ale. They get scared away saying, “That’s too dark.” But when they taste it, they end up liking it … Duke was my wife’s Valentines present to me. We started the brewery in 2008, and we got Duke in 2002. He got kidney disease, and we had a good brown ale recipe. There was also a new malt that had come out that I wanted to use. They said that you can only use a certain percent or you’re going to get too much tannin, but I said “I think we can push this over that.” And it came out great. It’s a mild brown ale. We didn’t want it to be too heavy, malty, or sweet. It’s something you can drink a lot of. It’s just a nice, mild brown ale.”
Brian and Susan Miller are a mother-and-son tag team that brought their dream of craft brewing in Jacksonville life. Both of them were stuck in the cycle of corporate America and were desperate to get out. Susan was an executive at Blue Cross and was planning her retirement.
“We were at the home and patio show, doing the home owner thing and trying to act like a grown up, and the owner of Just Brew It was there. He was selling kits to make beer. I got a kit, and the first time I had no idea what I was doing, but I fell in love with it. People would come over and say “Hey man, this is pretty good beer.” And I always thought to myself, you’re not going to tell me it’s horrible when you’re at my house, and you’re not going to say it’s crap when it’s free beer. I never really thought much of it. I thought, “Hey, I’m just brewing beer and people are having fun and they’re enjoying it.”
After four, almost five years of home brewing, Brian told his mother that he wanted to quit his job and open a brewery.
“I kind of had a thought and said “Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Is this what I want to pass down to my kids?” where you’re eating Twinkies all day and you’re drinking coffee, and you’re pissed off because you have to be there. So I sent her an email and I said ‘Let’s get the hell out of this place. I think we should start a brewery.’”
Jacksonville wasn’t ready for the craft-brewing craze. Starting up the brewery was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But once things began to fall into place, Bold City grew faster than they could keep up with. Their popularity spread and demand skyrocketed. Brian asked himself, “How do we grow the company but not change who we are?” Instead of taking things one step at a time, Bold City was taking it three or four steps at once. It’s difficult, as a consumer, when the small family owned business you’ve supported for years suddenly grows into a corporate monster. In 2012, they deliberately sat still for a year, in order to catch up with their growth and plan for the future.
During some of the bigger charity events in Jacksonville, Bold City joins the ranks to help raise money for those in need. If there’s a live band playing, they will often split the cost with the event, if the band isn’t donating their time. Bold City also donates a dollar for everything they sell, from pints to growlers, during the event.
Bold City has plenty going on all the time. Keep up to date on their website or Twitter!
1500 Beach Blvd #217
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Engine 15 Brewing Co. from P.207 Productions on Vimeo.
Jacksonville was not always as populated with craft breweries as it is today. When Engine 15 and Bold City were starting up, there was virtually no other craft brewery in town. The only options were corporate brewpubs, and they felt like they were lacking something. The beer wasn’t bad, it just didn’t have a “local” aspect to it. Engine 15’s co-founder, Luciano Scremin said that starting out wasn’t easy:
“A lot of people in Jacksonville have totally embraced the craft beer and local beer movement but it wasn’t always so. The first week we were open I waited on a customer that was just shocked that a beer at our place cost $4.50. I tried to explain it was a handcrafted high quality product, rather than a mass marketed beer made with the bottom line as the target. She just looked at me and laughed and told me I wouldn’t be in business in 3 months. That was like 4 years ago… The economy was in the toilet back in 2009 when we were looking to open, no one was loaning money or investing in new businesses. We used our own money to start up and expand our business. It was tough.”
Scremin never thought he would be where he is today. He had been home brewing for years before starting up Engine 15. His first aspiration was to become a pilot, which is what he does now on top of running the brewery. He said that, at Engine 15, they try to listen to the customers and give them what they want to drink, rather than just brewing what they like to brew. They even have their own fantastic version of a rotating tap. Using a 1bbl steam fired system, they can brew small and unique batches of beer every week. They call it “Tap 42” and it is served every Thursday at their Jacksonville Beach location.
They are planning on expanding to the downtown area, and will turn the Jacksonville Beach location into a “test kitchen.” The larger facility will give them the chance to brew larger batches so they can provide their customers more of the beers that have been growing in popularity. Scremin says that they can’t wait to expand, as it would give the Jax Beach location a chance to brew even more unique and innovative beers. The possibilities are beyond exciting.
Visit their website or follow them on Twitter!
Green Room Brewing Company
228 3rd St N
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
Located in Jacksonville Beach on 3rd Street, the Green Room Brewing Company resides in the vicinity of a number of popular beach attractions, making it a hotspot for beer aficionados and tourists alike. Green Room has been around since 2011 and claims to be the first microbrewery to have been established in the area.
Green Room does not sport a large selection of permanent brews, but what it does offer is varied in taste. Crowd favorites include the Undertow, a barleywine:
“Brewed with Orange Blossam Honey this beer is both fruity and sweet, yet packs a big punch at 9.0 ABV. A favorite amount our customers for its complex yet refreshing challenge to the palate.”
As well as the Double Overhead, a Double IPA:
“Hoppy and bitter with a piney-grapefruit taste. Well balanced and drinkable, especially for the ABV.”
Green Room also offers ping pong and giant Jenga, a premise that promises amusement at any place that serves alcoholic beverages.
Intuition Ale Works
720 King St
Jacksonville, FL 32204
Intuition Ale Works /// Overview from L. Gustavo Cooper on Vimeo
Another Riverside brewery, Intuition Ale Works is just around the corner from Bold City Brewery on King Street. Intuition founder Ben Davis first cut his teeth in Jacksonville in 1999 by purchasing The Grotto, a coffee shop in San Marco. Davis converted the coffee shop into the wine and tapas bar that residents would recognize today.
Intuition was established in 2010 and has come a long way in a short time. While its King Street residence is well traveled by craft beer lovers, patrons shouldn’t get too comfortable with its location as Davis reportedly wants to move the whole business over to Forest Street. Regardless of where it lands, Intuition is going strong. Their website has some info about the state of their craft beers:
"In February of 2012 we became the first craft brewery in the state of Florida to can our beers and currently we are canning three brands: our flagship People’s Pale Ale, Jon Boat Coastal Ale and I-10 IPA. We also brew a host of draught-only small batch specialties that can be found in our Riverside tap room (where we have twenty taps) and at better beer bars in Florida.”
The I-10 IPA, People’s Pale Ale, and Jon Boat Coastal Ale can be found in various grocers and stores across Northeast Florida. Intuition also hosts tours of their brewery – by appointment – and $5 gets you the full tour and a pint of beer.
Mile Marker Brewing
3420 Agricultural Center Dr
St Augustine, FL 32092
Located in the historic city of St Augustine, Mile Marker is known for its unique beers that encompass the spirit of Florida: the beach, warm sunny days, and even Datil peppers—a flavorful native pepper.
“The concept of Mile Marker Brewing began in a basement in New Jersey in December 2008 (on National Repeal Day, in fact!). Over a couple of beers, the two co-founders Vance Joy and Mike Fierro came up with the whole idea. They brought in artist Mark Mueller to create the artwork and graphics, and then brought in long-time friend Dennis Grune to develop the brewery operations. The intention was to develop a brand that relates to the laid-back, fun, beachy lifestyle of Florida and the Florida Keys and tie that into beer.”
But brewing a great beer is just the first step of many. Many things, such as supplies, logistics, and distribution, still needed to be planned out. Vance, Mike, and Dennis formed a dynamic trio fit for tackling any problems they may face while getting their business running. Both Vance and Dennis had years of experience in homebrewing and Mike had experience with corporate beverage sales.
Being the only full-scale commercial craft brewery in St. Augustine is a big title to hold up to. Mile Marker aims to keep their roots grounded in the history of America’s oldest city. They work closely with many local organizations and donate their time to a large number of non-profit events. From golf tournaments to fundraisers, Mile Marker is there. And when they’re not out in the community showing their support, they are hosting events right in their home base. They’ve held events for Toys For Tots, Think Pink Motorcycle Ride, the World Golf Festival of Trees, and many more.
“We have hosted and donated to various motorcycle associations and hosted poker runs and stops. In December, we host a big fundraiser for a local food pantry, working with a great group of local musicians. For our last December fundraiser, we also donated to S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue… We receive so many requests, and we regret that we can’t do them all, but we really try to help out as much as we can.”
Mile Marker’s taproom has plenty of room for anyone looking to relax and enjoy one of their many craft brews; it’s the number one choice for many locals and tourists. They support patrons bringing their own food to the taproom, and even feature local food trucks outside. Local musicians perform every Saturday night—as well as every other Friday—and even feature cornhole tournaments. You can’t get more southern than joining in on a cornhole tournament and sipping on an Ancient City Red Ale.
A great way to keep up with Mile Marker’s numerous events is to look no further than their “Events” tab on their website. They also are constantly updating their Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.
Pinglehead Brewing Company/Brewer's Pizza, Inc.
14B Blanding Blvd
Orange Park, FL 32073
Pizza and beer has been the staple of college students for decades. There is nothing more satisfying after a late night cram session than a cold one (or two) and a warm slice of your favorite pizza. Brewer’s Pizza started out as a small restaurant with only a handful of seats at the bar and a few booths.
“It’s really easy to make a pizza place work. Someone has to care and push it forward… I was [there] an hour before open and an hour after closing every day. While Bold City was basically the only place in town, it took a long time to get licensed. We first were a brew pub and eventually transitioned to a brewery over the course of 6 months.”
Troy Maas graduated college with a business degree, but that didn’t prepare him for the reality of running a business. Even with the knowledge he had from school, he felt like he had to start over and learn everything from scratch. Today, Brewer’s Pizza is the home base for Pinglehead Brewing. Their bar features many popular craft beers from other local breweries, along with their own. The brewers at Pinglehead boast that they only make “big beer.” On their website, they satirically explain how fans of commercialized light beers “probably won’t be able to appreciate” their strong and flavorful brews.
“If those awesome Superbowl beer commercials have convinced you that you “belong”, DON’T BOTHER LOOKING OUR WAY! Our craftsmen make BIG BEER, full of flavor with the most incredible ingredients available. We call it ‘Beer with Attitude!’ “
But beer isn’t the only thing they know how to make. At Brewer’s Pizza, they have a full menu featuring many mouth-watering entrées. The most popular item on the menu is their “Florida Smacker.” It’s Brewer’s own spin on a southern style pan pizza that will make your head spin with flavor. It may be square, but it is far from ordinary. The crunchy, beer infused dough is perfectly complimented with an array of high quality toppings of your choice. It’s worth stopping by just for a bite to eat, even if you’re not in the mood for a beer.
Keep up to date on Brewer's Pizza and Pinglehead on their websites!
Veterans United Craft Brewery:
8999 Western Way #104
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Taken from VU Brew's Instagram
As a Naval Flight Officer, Ron Gamble had the opportunity to travel to different countries, sampling their unique local beers. This sparked a desire to learn more about the brewing process. He wanted “to learn more about the brewing process and to create really delicious, drinkable beers.” In 1999, his wife bought him a home brew kit, which led them down the path to create their own brewery. Like any small business, there were many obstacles that needed to be overcome:
“Initially, you’re just one person with a vision who must go out and convince others that you have a great idea and can be successful. Turning a well-tested beer recipe into an actual beverage folks can purchase from you is no easy feat. But the opportunity to be a positive contributor to an ever-growing local craft beer community here in Jacksonville far outweighs the hurdles we’ll have to face.”
Gamble is no green horn when it comes to brewing. Not only has he attended Siebel Institute of Technology’s Brewing School, as well as Doemen’s Academy in Germany, but he has also brewed at four commercial breweries. He has experience with everything from small brewpubs to large regional breweries. Gamble has over 26 years of business management experience, as well as an MBA from Virginia Tech.
Having served in the Navy, Gamble, as well as a majority of his investors, are proud veterans. Their vision is to take “the same spirit, pride, and dedication of [their] military service and infuse this energy into [their] company to create great tasting and innovative craft beers.” Gamble hopes that “with the combined efforts of the City and other craft breweries in town, [they] can make Jacksonville a premier destination for craft beer in the State of Florida.”
Visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates!
Article by Kara Holmes
This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-jun-the-craft-breweries-of-jacksonville