By Guest Blogger, Shawndra Russell
Jacksonville has become a beer mecca in recent years thanks to nearly a dozen brewers getting crafty and a slew of bars and restaurants catering to the craft beer crowd. For an educational and introductory Jacksonville beer experience, jump on the Jax Brew Bus. This 4.5 hours tour takes beer enthusiasts to three Jacksonville breweries and allows patrons to bring growlers on board filled from their favorite stops to enjoy en route or to imbibe later. You’ll get loads of beer history of both the city and brews along the way.
If you’d rather enjoy your beer sipping at your own pace, than start off with lunch at Engine 15 on Jacksonville Beach and work your way toward downtown where several breweries create a Bermuda (or should I say, Beermuda) Triangle. Engine 15’s menu often takes a staple and adds a twist, like their most popular item, the Bar-B-Cuban: a pressed sandwich stuffed with slow smoked pulled pork, ham, Swiss, mustard and a stacker pickle. Of course, the real stars are the 50 rotating taps and over 200 bottles. They even have a “brew your own” setup (the only place in Southeast USA), which means the opportunity to work alongside their professional brewers to create your own batch. For around $100, you can brew 10 gallons—but be sure to book your session way in advance as this past time has become quite popular.
Before heading downtown, stop by Green Room Brewing, also on Jacksonville Beach, and dubbed as Jacksonville’s first microbrewery. Then, keep the suds flowing by taking a tour at one (or all!) of the brewhouses in Jacksonville’s urban core, like Bold City Brewery, Intuition Ale Works or the city’s newest brewery, Aardwolf. Tour times are limited, so call ahead. After all that hard work sampling beer and learning about the craft of brewing, you deserve a pint; take a load off post-tour at each brewery’s taproom.
For your dinnertime brews, visit one of the many brewpubs that round out Jacksonville’s craft scene like European Street Café with their all-weekend happy hour, or the massive selection at Kickbacks Gastropub. If you want a heartier dinner, visit River City Brewing Company. They’ve got beautiful waterfront views and have been serving up American fare (special daily pastas, burgers and plenty of seafood choices) alongside their English and German-inspired beer menu for over 20 years.
Jacksonville has also embraced their beer-haven status by hosting two premier events–an annual Jax Beer Week, the first week of April, and the Jacksonville Craft & Import Beer Festival in May–so consider visiting during these events for an extra dose of beer love.
And although it has nothing to do with beer, if you need a really great breakfast the next day, Maple Street Biscuit Company was voted one of Urbanspoon’s 101 Great Breakfasts in 2013—pretty impressive considering Maple Street only opened six months before the list went live. Their huge homemade biscuits that serve as the foundation for all their inventive sandwiches will surely cure any trace of hangover you might have. Plus, they currently rank #2 out of 1,550 restaurant options on Tripadvisor.
Shawndra is a digital strategist that helps small businesses tackle their social media and the Savannah correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide. Read about her services and work at www.shawndrarussell.com.