Craft breweries have become a popular and abundant city staple over the last decade or so. Ever since Bold City Brewery opened in 2008 and paved the way for Jacksonville’s flourishing culture of craft beer, independent craft breweries have begun to grow all around the city and the surrounding area. Enter local Jacksonville breweries.
Why are these breweries appearing throughout the city and the surrounding area? Why are they gaining such rapid popularity among its citizens? What’s the difference between a craft beer and any of the mass-produced beers from macro beer corporations? Why should you support local Jacksonville craft breweries? Why do they matter?
These are some of the questions many people may have if they’re wondering about the nature of the craft brewery phenomenon that’s swept the country and its effects in the city of Jacksonville.
The answers to most of these questions can be found, of course, inside of any of these local breweries. These places welcome beer lovers and members of the community to an atmosphere of fun, innovation, and craft. This bonded sense of community centered around distinct and exciting new styles of brewing and enjoying beer is addictive and, well, intoxicating. Jacksonville’s local breweries matter, and they’re worth supporting.
What is a Craft Brewery?
What’s the difference between a regular brewery belonging to one of the macro beer businesses and a craft brewery? The Brewer’s Association defines an American craft brewery as a small, independent, brewing operation. Craft breweries are owned 99 percent of the time by small business entrepreneurs, as opposed to the large beverage alcohol corporations which are owned by global banking conglomerates.
According to the BA, in order to be considered an independent craft brewery, an organization must exhibit these three qualities:
- Small: A craft brewery produces 6 million barrels of beer or less per year. That’s about three percent of the annual U.S. beer market, which reaches at just under 200 million barrels.
- Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery can be owned or controlled by a member of one of the large beverage alcohol companies. Several of these large corporations have
- Brewer: The brewer must have a TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) Brewer’s Notice and must make beer.
Jacksonville’s Local Brewery History
In 1909 a German immigrant named William Ostner visited Jacksonville and fell in love with the city. Ostner worked as a brewmaster in the brewing industry of St. Louis, Missouri and thought that Jacksonville would be the perfect city for a brewery. Three years later, in 1913, he moved to Jacksonville and opened the Jacksonville Brewing Company. It was the second brewery established in Florida, after the Florida Brewing Company in Tampa. The company’s flagship, Jax Beer, was a German-style pilsner that gained quite a bit of popularity in the surrounding area.
When Jacksonville, preceding nationwide prohibition by two years, became a dry city in 1918, the company was changed to Jax Ice and Cold Storage. They also produced ice cream, ginger ale, root beer, and near beer. Interestingly, their near beer was made through the normal beer-brewing process and then boiled afterward to remove the alcohol. This means that, at times, Jax Ice and Cold Storage had illegally strong beer on the premises. Kind of hard to believe that no one snuck a few bottles of the good stuff during the process, right?
After national prohibition ended, the brewery went back to the business of real beer. A few years later, the name was shortened to Jax Brewing Company. In anticipation for the passing of the twenty-first constitutional amendment, months before prohibition would be ended, Ostner ordered the necessary supplies and began plans to resume the production of Jax Beer. This made Jax Brewing Company the first brewery in Florida to be ready for business post-prohibition. Their popularity soon spread across the region.
Competition Enters the Scene
Jax Brewing Company’s main rival was a New Orleans brewery that also sold a product with the Jax Beer name, called the Jackson Brewing Company. After some territorial disputes, the two companies came to a compromise and divided the South in two. Jax Brewing Company obtained the right to sell Jax Beer in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Jackson Brewing Company would sell their Jax Beer in the states to the west.
Jax beer was a popular saloon staple throughout the Southern states, and is nostalgically remembered in a number of photos, signs, trinkets, and bottles. Sadly, however, Jax Brewery closed its doors in 1956 after selling the Jax Beer rights to their competitor, the Jackson Brewing Company in New Orleans.
J.F. Ostner, son of William Ostner, blamed the closing of Jax Brewing Company on the growing popularity of disposable cans in the distribution of beer following World War II. Larger national beer companies could afford to distribute cans, which at the time cost more than the product, and many of the smaller local Jacksonville breweries simply couldn’t afford to keep up.
History Continues, with a Lull in Local
Interestingly enough, Jax Brewing Company is widely credited with creating the first six-pack! Sometime around 1945-1946, in an effort to compete with the growing popularity of disposable canned beer, the Ostner family purchased 100,000 sacks from Towers Hardware that were durable and sturdy enough to hold their bottles. They imprinted the Jax Beer logo on them and sold their beers six to a pack.
Unfortunately, it was only enough to keep them in business for the next ten years or so. Jax Brewing Company sold away the rights to Jax Beer and closed their doors. Jacksonville’s local beer production went dry, until the Anheuser-Busch brewery opened on the North Side in 1969. A true craft brewery didn’t open until Bold City Brewery was founded in 2008.
The Impact of Craft Breweries
Innovation is and has always been a hallmark of craft beer production. Entrepreneurs of all kinds have established their small businesses all over the country and have brought unique and innovative twists to the art of brewing beer. They’ve interpreted historic and traditional styles with unique twists and continue to develop completely new styles and ways of brewing. Craft brewers have turned the beer industry on its head and have shown the world the many things that American beer can be besides the standard American Lager.
The craft beer industry is booming. In 2017, beer from small and independent craft brewers made up $26 billion out of the country’s overall $111.4 billion in beer sales. The Brewer’s Association states that more than 80 percent of Americans over the legal drinking age of 21 live within 10 miles of an independent craft brewery. Independent brewers have thrived against all odds by expanding styles and adding new twists to the art of brewing beer.
The United States has become the largest and most diverse beer destination in the world. This is thanks to the hard work and innovative ideas of entrepreneurs in the craft beer industry. And the number of independent breweries is growing. These brewers have risen beer up to a higher standard, moving the national palette beyond the standard American lager mass-produced by macro beer companies. Craft beer has reached a level of appreciation that rivals that of wine. They have produced tens of thousands of brands in a wide variety of styles. This means that no matter your taste, there’s a craft beer somewhere out there for everyone to enjoy.
The Challenges Ahead for Local Jacksonville Breweries
Despite the huge success of America’s craft brewers, there are still many future hurdles to jump and other battles to win. Access to the market, the cost of raw ingredients and materials, and operating in a highly taxed and highly regulated industry are all examples of challenges that independent American craft brewers have always faced and must face further in the coming years.
The beer industry is tough. Challenges and hardships can come at any time. Economic strain and the effort to keep up in the competitive beer industry can damage or destroy an independent brewer. During the 2007-08 hop crisis, many craft brewers had to reformulate their recipes due to the shortage of materials. Some had to discontinue brands altogether. Large beverage alcohol corporations could afford the skyrocketed price of hops when smaller breweries could not. Economic catastrophes such as this could happen at any time, leaving independent brewers vulnerable.
Large Scale Global Competitors in the Local Landscape
Two of the world’s largest brewers, Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors, control the majority of the beer distribution in the country. This reduces access to the market. Preferential treatment to these brands makes competition more difficult for smaller, independent brewers. These small businesses play David to the Goliath that is the handful of big players that dominate the competitive beer industry. Some of the large alcohol beverage companies have even begun to release products with an “independent” style of branding in order to sell their product to lovers and supporters of craft beer under a false guise.
Jax Brewing company was a small independent brewery that couldn’t keep up with the market’s financial demand for disposable cans and closed its doors forever as a result. The larger beer companies at the time were able to absorb the financial cost of the cans and therefore were able to grow bigger while smaller breweries died.
These challenges make it more difficult for independent breweries to grow and thrive, but you can help by supporting local craft brewers with your patronage. The next time you’re out at a bar, or at the beer aisle of your local grocery store, consider choosing a beer made by an independent craft brewer.
The Importance of Local Jacksonville Breweries
Today, Jacksonville is widely considered one of the top cities for craft breweries in the state of Florida. Aardwolf Brewing Company, Bold City Brewery, Engine 15 Brewing Company, Intuition Ale Works, and many more dot the city map. The large (and still growing) number of local breweries that have opened over the past few years has undoubtedly changed the city and the way we enjoy beer. The rise of the Jacksonville craft brewer has brought a new kind of nightlife and culture of beer appreciation to the city that before only existed in small minority. They have reminded us of our love of both producing and consuming local beer.
Many craft breweries tend to be involved in their communities through event sponsorship, volunteering, donations, and philanthropy. Our local Jacksonville breweries are no different. Many of our local breweries have participated in and continue to sponsor events within the community. The different flavors and aromas of different styles of beer isn’t the only benefit of participating in the brewery experience.
The people that make up the craft beer community are as diverse as the beer they make, serve, and enjoy. This diverse community of people that are the local Jacksonville breweries scene are pivotal. They are oftentimes the very reason that one turns from a craft beer admirer into an enthusiast. The city’s craft brewers care about their communities and the surrounding areas, and it shows.
Support Local Jacksonville Breweries
Local Jacksonville breweries matter. They matter to beer lovers. And they matter to social gatherers. They also matter to the community. Just as the community, socialites, and beer enthusiasts matter to them. However, it should go without saying that celebrating, promoting, and supporting local independent craft breweries isn’t a denigration of the big beer businesses or the quality of their beer. They have their place in society, of course.
They are no doubt the reason that beer has been established as the most popular fermented drink in the country. They’ve earned their success. However, it’s important for smaller craft brewers to be able to have the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Craft brewers, the independent craft brewers of Jacksonville specifically, bring diversity and new ideas to the world of beer and to the communities in which they inhabit.
So, again, the next time you’re in the mood to enjoy a beer, make sure to choose local. The many small and independent brewers around the city make craft beer readily available for purchase all around Jacksonville. Support the local Jacksonville breweries, because they matter.