The day a beautiful glass full of Southern Tier Pumking with a graham cracker ring was placed in front of me, I discovered a whole different world of what it means to drink beer. Jacksonville has a strong Craft Beer scene that has exploded over the last year, and when I heard about the Jax Ale Trail, I was excited to set out and explore the local Craft Beer scene one brewery at a time. I received my last passport stamp in late May and below is a highlight of some of my experiences.
My Jax Ale Trail Adventures
This is the home of Brewer’s Pizza or vice versa. It’s like a chicken before the egg thing, so I’m not sure which comes first (Brewery or Restaurant). What I do know is that they are my official hometown brewery, and I might be biased, but they are my favorite. Not only is their beer amazing (I seriously have never tasted one I don’t like), but the food is delicious. Our family celebrates all major life events at Brewer’s Pizza with our friends including kid birthday dinners (at their request). For those of you not on this side of the bridge, make the trip. You won’t be disappointed. Favorite Beer: Pinglehead Moon Dance (or all of them)
The first thing I noticed about Aardwolf was the atmosphere. I’m not sure if it was the night we were there or if this is a regular occurrence but the clientele was diverse ranging from young families to the after work crowd. It was packed, loud, and full of energy. As I scanned their board of 19 beers, I had a hard time choosing, so it was flight time. The beer flight was designed for indecisive people like myself who want to try everything and still be able to make it home at the end of the evening. Favorite Beer: Whisperer in the Darkness
This establishment is what makes the craft beer scene so unique. They’ve basically taken over what appears to be an average office space, opened a brewery, added some tables with board games and waited for the people to gather. And gather they do. The place was packed from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. As an added bonus, for $5 you can tour their brewery and get a few samples of their beer. Favorite Beer: Raging Blonde Ale
One of the original breweries in Jacksonville, this is a mother/son owned business and seemed to be the one with the most regulars as it had that everybody knows your name feel. There are no bells and whistles at Bold City as it is all about the beer, but the lack of bells and whistles is part of its charm. It reminded me of a college town bar where the sole purpose is a place for people just to come and hang out for as long as they want. Favorite Beer: Killer Whale Cream Ale
They were a last minute entry on the Jax Ale Trail, but a well deserved one in Zeta Brewing. We already had plans to visit Green Room, and decided to add in Zeta for brunch that same day. I assumed we could just walk in and grab a table. My assumption was wrong. They were able to find us a table, and if I had to pick a winner for the overall experience, I think Zeta would take the win. I loved the look of the place–the staff was over the top friendly, and the food and drinks were delicious. They offer something called a beer cocktail, which was perfect for a late morning brunch. Favorite Beer: Espresso Porter (Not technically just a beer but one of their beer cocktails that include their house brewed Power to the Porter mixed with 3 Olives Espresso)
If you’ve never had their Count Shakula beer, I beg you to stop everything you’re doing right now and find an establishment that will serve you this beverage. It is one of my all time favorite beers, so I was excited to get out to Green Room and experience what else they had to offer. It was a lazy Sunday, and we enjoyed just sitting at a table hanging out with our friends. Bonus: Giant Connect Four game in the back! Favorite Beer: Count Shakula
As I waited for my food and beer to arrive, a young couple walked in with their newborn baby in one hand and a growler in the other. They exhaustedly walked up, sat the baby carrier on top of the bar and waited for the bartender to fill up their growler with delicious beer that would no doubt get them through the pains of new parenthood. I instantly decided this was my kind of place. One look at the decor and I realized that like all the local breweries I visited, it was a relaxed, fun environment that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Favorite Beer: Doolittle Saison
This was my first stop on the Jax Ale Trail. I was very familiar with their beer, but had never been to their taproom, and I’ve found myself holding all other taprooms to the standard of Intuition. The bartenders were passionate about their beer, and my friend, Renee, who thought she didn’t even like beer discovered she was just drinking the wrong beer all along after ordering her first ever dark beer. There were so many great beers on tap that day, that Renee’s husband declared, “I want beer 6 and 7, but I have to go through beers 4 and 5 to get there.” A cautionary tale of truth for those of you planning to visit Intuition. Favorite Beer: Turn Down for Wit (Yes, we played the song every time we ordered it)
I encourage you to support these local businesses. They are passionate about what they do, active in our community, and no matter which one you visit, you are guaranteed a good time!