The History of Breweries in Jacksonville

In the past ten years, Jacksonville has grown from a city with one craft brewery to a city with a thriving network of over twenty-five craft breweries. This trend of local, craft breweries doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. 

So how did the breweries in Jacksonville come about and will Jacksonville continue to become a city known for its local craft breweries? Read this article to learn more about Jacksonville’s history with breweries and what the future may hold. 

The History of Breweries in Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s history with breweries goes way back. In 1914 the Jax Brewing Company opened its doors. Soon afterward Jacksonville went dry in 1918 and the brewing company changed its name to Jax Ice and Cold Storage. Beer production was replaced with ice cream as the factory scaled up hoping one day the prohibition would be repealed. In 1933 after the passage of the 21st amendment the Jax Brewing Company was once again ready to sell beer. 

In 1935 Jax Brewing Company had a trademark dispute on their hands with a company in New Orleans. The companies decided to divide up the territory to make things fair. The Jacksonville Brewing Company was allowed to continue selling their product in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas while the New Orleans company sold to western states. By 1943 Jax Brewing increased its production to 100,348 barrels of beer per year. 

The 1950s brought competition from national brewers and consumers began to prefer to consume beer from aluminum cans. Meanwhile, the company still maintained its cold storage services and experienced rising revenues from that section of their business. Eventually, they sold the Jax Beer copyright to the company in New Orleans and focused on the cold storage business. The 130,000 square foot building is still standing at 1429 W. 16th Street and is one of Florida’s earliest breweries. 

The New Orleans company expanded the production of a beer called Jax all the way until the mid-1970swhen the company and the recipes were sold to the Pearl Brewing Company of San Antonio, Texas. Pearl continued producing the beer using the original recipe from the Jacksonville and New Orleans breweries. They even decided to keep the label the same. Eventually, Pearl purchased Pabst Brewing Company and switched the name of its operations over to Pabst. It was during this switch that the Jax beer product was discontinued. 

Anheuser-Busch opened a macro brewery plant in 1969 on the Northside of Jacksonville that still operates today. The plant was built to meet the needs of Florida, Southern Georgia, and Southern Alabama. When it was first built the Anheuser-Busch plant produced 1.7 million barrels annually. Today the plant has gone through multiple expansions and it can now put out over 9 million barrels in a year. Anheuser-Busch also operates a farm just north of the brewery where it produces corn, sorghum, and ryegrasses that it uses at the plant. 

The Local Craft Beer Movement

The local craft brewery movement we are experiencing today can be traced back to the 1990s. In the mid-1990s the River City Brewing Company began a microbrewing operation along the Southbank of downtown Jacksonville. Then Ragtime Tavern in Atlantic Beach also began microbrewing. Ragtime eventually was purchased by a company outside of Jacksonville but River City Brewing remains a Jacksonville owned operation.

In 1999 the Southend Brewery, a Charleston-based brewery, opened shop at the Jacksonville landing and lasted about six years before it shut down. But the brewery bug had bitten Jacksonville. The residents were hungry for more local small breweries in Jacksonville. 

Not that long ago many bottled beers couldn’t be sold in Jacksonville. Bottles were limited to 8, 12, 16, and 32 ounces. That meant no 22-ounce craft beers or 25.4-ounce Belgian beers were sold. In 2001, the state changed the laws to be more favorable to small local breweries. They removed limitations on the serving sizes for canned and bottled beer. 

The change in the law allowed and size 32 ounces and below or 1 gallon and above to be purchased. This made way for the popular growler size. A growler is a reusable jug that local breweries full up so people can enjoy their brew at home. 

The Explosion of Local Breweries in Jacksonville

After the change in the law, things really started to explode for the Jacksonville craft brewing scene. More and more local craft breweries started to open up. Here are just a few. 

Bold City Brewing

In 2008 Bold City Brewery set up shop in Riverside. It received a warm welcome from the community. This was the first full-scale craft brewery in Jacksonville, Florida. The owners are a mother and son partnership, Susan and Brian Miller. This unlikely team left their desk job and turned Bold City Brewing Company into a successful brewery against long odds.

Bold City Brewing has become one of the most popular local breweries in Jacksonville with favorites such as Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale and Killer Whale Cream Ale. Bold City helped put Jacksonville on the map as a craft brewing town. 

Intuition Ale Works

Two years later in 2010 Intuition Ale Works opened up down the street. Owner and Head Brewer Ben Davis specializes in small-batch craft ales. Davis previously worked in the wine business spending time in New Zealand and Napa Valley, California.

Intuition Ale Works was the first local brewery to can its beers. They are well known for their People’s Pale Ale, 1-10 IPA, and Jon Boat West Coast Ale. Their beers can be purchased in supermarkets and liquor stores throughout the Jacksonville area. 

Engine 15 Brewing Co.

At the same time Intuition Ale Works was getting started, Engine 15 Brewing Co. popped up on Beach Blvd just off the Intercoastal waterway. Engine 15 Brewing Co. was started by Luciano Scremin. During his youth, he was a homebrewer.

Over the years he perfected his craft and eventually opened up restaurant and microbrewery Engine 15. Today Engine 15 has multiple locations and a wide variety of taps to serve guests delicious local beers. 

Green Room Brewing

The year after Green Room Brewing opened up in Jacksonville Beach. Founded by Eric Lumen Green Room Brewing has become a staple of the Jacksonville Beach and Jacksonville brewery scene. Lumen got his start in the business cleaning tap lines at the former Southend Brewery. He and business partner Mark Stilman purchased some equipment from Bold City Brewery and started their own place. Their taproom is a local hangout for surfers and beer lovers alike. 

The beaches and Riverside both became very popular areas for craft breweries in Jacksonville. The Springfield area is seeing a period of revitalization and is now home to two craft breweries with more on the way. 

Aardwolf Brewing Company

The beer scene is still expanding in Jacksonville. Aardwolf Brewing Company in San Marco on Hendricks Ave. opened its doors in 2013. The building that Aardwolf is located is rich in history. It was constructed in 1927 for the South Jacksonville Utilities Company. Later on, it was used as an ice factory when passing trains needed ice to keep goods cold. 

Friends Preben Olsen and Michael Payne opened Aardwolf together and have been producing an impressive variety of beers. They are known for their Belgian Pale Ale, Non- Chalant IPAand Styrofoam Pony Stout. Aardwolf is one of Jacksonville’s most beautiful taprooms and always attracts an eclectic mixture of people. 

Fishweir Brewing

Fishweir Brewing Company was founded in 2016 when Broc and Stacey Flores moved to Jacksonville. After spending years in great craft beer cities they wanted to try their hand at brewing and continue Jacksonville’s beer scene. Broc has been an avid homebrewer and with the help of a brewer, they carefully created a variety of craft beers that would appeal to many tastes. 

Stacey capitalized on her years of retail experience and took charge of the tap-room experience. Fishweir Brewing has a comfortable neighborhood feel that welcomes all locals and visitors alike. 

And Many More

These breweries are just the beginning for Jacksonville. There have been several more added including Southern Swells, Veterans United, Wicked Barley, Pinglehead, and Ruby Beach Brewing Company to name a few. The new wave of breweries is already upon us with many more currently in the works. The Jacksonville Ale Trail, sponsored by Visit Jacksonville, keeps a list of all the breweries and has a map on their website. 

Neighborhood Breweries

A tap-room style brewery is a safe option for local brewers. It requires less buy-in on the part of the owner’s because the brewery only has to produce enough beer to serve the taphouse. According to the Brewers Association of Independent Craft Breweries, of the 7,346 breweries opened last year, 4,521 of them were small tap-room styled microbreweries. 

In Jacksonville, half of the local breweries are considered to be microbreweries or tap-rooms. A small brewing system can be purchased for around $100,000 according to NerdWallet. Larger systems can cost well over $1 million. The Brewers Association said the economic impact of craft beer in Florida was $3.6 billion back in 2017. 

The growth of Jacksonville breweries comes with the return to the local neighborhood pubs. These spaces reflect their unique neighborhoods and each neighborhood’s needs. They provide a laid back enjoyable atmosphere that is different from a bar. 

Jacksonville’s tap-rooms operate as a community hub much like a coffee shop. People hold baby showers, birthday parties, and Saturday afternoon get-togethers at these tap-rooms. Because they don’t serve food or hard liquor it isn’t unusual to see children or dogs in a tap-room. It’s not a stretch to say that these places perform civic functions in Jacksonville. 

Tap-rooms are family-friendly. Don’t worry about finding a babysitter. Bring the kids along if you are going to a Jacksonville tap-room. Many local taprooms have board games and giant lawn games that people can play while enjoying a beer. Relax and enjoy sitting together with family and friends. 

Jacksonville breweries also have better beer than a bar. You will find an interesting mix and variety of beers for purchase at a tap-room brewery. While you are there sample your way around their selection until you find just the right beer. 

The Future of Breweries in Jacksonville

Ask the average Jacksonville consumer if they support independence and locality when it comes to their beer purchases and they will more than likely say yes. But sometimes those ideas are not enough to change real-world behavior. People like supporting local Jacksonville breweries but when none of those are around a corporate brand will do the trick. 

But with more and more grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants, and even the TIAA Bank stadium catching on to the craze it is easier than ever to find local beer nearby. Small breweries can’t rely on a single beer to keep them profitable. They need to expand out and add diversify or risk becoming “dad beer”. 

Luckily, new breweries keep springing up with many more to open soon. It seems like the Brewery scene in Jacksonville is doing just fine and will keep growing. Jacksonville does have a large population and can support more than a handful of craft breweries. The national trend appears to show that new craft breweries will keep opening with over 8,000 openings up nationwide in 2019 alone. 

The craft beer industry seems to be one of the fastest-growing industries for many years now. Jacksonville has a long way to go to catch up to cities like Denver or Portland who are famous for their beers but we are not too shabby. 

Jacksonville has a Rich History in Brewing

Jacksonville, Florida has a rich history in local craft brewing. Within the past decade or so craft beer has exploded upon Jacksonville and it looks like it isn’t stopping anytime soon. Many local brewers/entrepreneurs are to thank for this surge in local beer. The microbrewery tap-rooms changed the way we drink beer and the environment we do it in. 

If you live in Jacksonville or are just passing by, be sure to check out the breweries in Jacksonville. There is something for every taste and a tap-room for every style. If you enjoyed this article please share it with your friends and check out our other articles on Jacksonville breweries. 

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