Friday, December 12, 2014

NOLA Brewing Rebirth Pale Ale

Brewery: NOLA Brewing Co.
Location:New Orleans, LA
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5%

I was recently given a bottle of Rebirth Pale Ale, which just recently began distribution in select Florida markets. Having not tried much from NOLA Brewing, I was pleased at the opportunity to try something new and provide a review on my experience with the brew. And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't give a big thanks to Guy for sending me a can of Rebirth to check out!

Appearance: Rebirth pours an orangish hue that is slightly cloudy. The pour provides a white head with negligable lacing.

Aroma: The aroma is mild and hard to detect any one element. From what I can distinguish, I get sweet citrus and caramel malt notes.

Taste: Just like the nose, the taste is fairly mild, and I don't find that there is any one flavor distinguishing itself from the rest. Nonetheless, I will do my best to create a separation and describe what I detect. Rebirth is bready and yeasty. The malt sweetness picks up on the middle of the palate and then ends with a slight pine and bitter finish. The slight malt and slight pine make this a fairly mellow, yet drinkable, beer.

Overall: Mild is the theme, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I can see this being a local favorite, especially during those warm summer months in New Orleans. Rebirth Pale Ale is easy to drink and docile.

Beer Apostle's Final Grade:C+

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Jax Ale Trail - Explore Jacksonville's Craft Breweries

It’s Time to Hop On the Jax Ale Trail!
-Jacksonville’s Beer Scene Offers Plenty of Tasty Options-

In case you've missed the buzz, the folks at Visit Jacksonville have launched the Jax Ale Trail as a part of their package to promote tourism to the city. Anyone who has spent any time in Jacksonville knows that craft beer has become an integral part of the city's identity. I have been preaching it for a while now, but I believe that Jacksonville has quickly become the beer capital of Florida. The Jax Ale Trail confirms this notion; Jacksonville's beer scene stands toe-to-toe with any other city, and we've only begun to see the potential. With more breweries set to open in the coming months, this is a fun time for beer nerds and general tourists alike.

Below is the official press release for the Jax Ale Trail. Take a look, grab a passport, and start exploring Jacksonville's finest!

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When your city has tons of award winning craft brews you want to make sure everyone, especially those visiting from out of town, gets a chance to enjoy all of them, that’s why on this December 4, Visit Jacksonville and Jacksonville’s craft breweries are unveiling the new Jax Ale Trail and the Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport!

The Jax Ale Trail invites beer lovers on a self-guided tour of the seven craft breweries across the city of Jacksonville including Aardwolf Brewing Company, Bold City Brewery, Engine 15 Brewing Co., Green Room Brewing, Intuition Ale Works, Pinglehead Brewing Company, and Veterans United Craft Brewery, as well as local restaurants that brew their own beers and other beer attractions.

Visitors of the Jax Ale Trail will receive a Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport, which can be stamped at each of the local craft breweries to receive cool free prizes.

All the information related to the Jax Ale Trail and the Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport can be found online at  including maps to all the craft breweries, tours information, all activities on the trail, and the rules for receiving your free gifts after completing the passport.

“Craft beer is becoming a more and more popular reason to travel, and not many destinations are making it easy for visitors to find all the information for local breweries in one easy step like our passport and website do. We know that new visitors will be surprised by the quality, and quantity, of beer here in Jacksonville,” said Katie Mitura, Director of Marketing and Communications at Visit Jacksonville, the city’s official marketing organization.

The collaboration with the local craft breweries and attractions, the Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport and the new Jax Ale Trail website, give Visit Jacksonville an opportunity to promote all of the beer related activities and breweries in the city while at the same time giving visitors a unique destination experience that can only be enjoyed in Jacksonville.

"We are very excited to participate in the Jax Ale Trail and proud to represent Jacksonville as a thriving craft beer destination. Cheers!” said Christina Bradford, Marketing Coordinator at the newest brewery in town, Veterans United Craft Brewery.  

Those who embark on the Ale Trail may come away with cool SWAG!

The Jax Ale Trail Brewery Passport is free, and can be picked up at any of the breweries as well as the Visit Jacksonville Visitor Centers in Downtown or at the Jacksonville Landing.  Get your passport stamped at four breweries to win a Jax Ale Trail beer koozie, and visit all seven breweries to win a koozie and a Jax Ale Trail T-shirt. Visit for more details.

Two local companies, Jax Brew Bus and Play Harder Tours, will be offering guided group tours of the seven breweries on the Jax Ale Trail Passport, with visits planned during the weekdays and weekends. Other activities on self-guided portion of the Jax Ale Trail include tours of the Budweiser Brewery, and samplings at local restaurants that brew their own beers like Ragtime in Neptune Beach, Zeta in Jacksonville Beach, Seven Bridges on the Southside and the River City Brewing Company in Downtown Jacksonville.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Farm to San Marco: A Five Course Dinner with Local Beer and Spirit Pairings

The San Marco Preservation Society is hosting a Farm to Table event in Jacksonville's historic San Marco neighborhood. This is a five course event accompanied by local beer from Aardwolf and Veterans United Craft Brewery. There will be cocktails from San Marco's own Grape and Grain Exchange. This promises to be a great evening with a good cause. Tickets are still available. Click here to purchase:
Here is a breakdown of the five course dinner:

First Course: A Smoked Chicken and Pumpkin Bisque with Madras Curry from Chef Chris Dickerson of Corner Taco, served in beautifully carved pumpkins provided by Conner's Amazing Acres and chicken provided by Black Hog Farms. Pairing with Grape & Grain.

Salad Course: Field of Dreams Microgreens Salad from Berry Good Farms paired with Sage Wit from Intuition Ale.

Third Course: Dig Foods will be serving a vegan charcuterie board to include house-made terrine and pates, house-pickled vegetables and Sunrawise artisan vegan cheese, paired with Scout Dog 44 Amber from Veterans United Craft Brewery. Optional on the table is Verde De'Vine Cilantro Tomatillo Sauce from Fresh Jax.

Main Course: Bistro AIX will be presenting a seared fish over polenta with a seafood bouillabaisse. Providers and farms include Fisherman's Dock, Greenway Farm, Traders Hill Farms and Producing Edibles. Paired with an Aardwolf brew.

Dessert: Bakery Ribault will be preparing a twist on the classic Napoleon. Paired with Grape and Grain which will be using Queen Bee Honey in the cocktail. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Phobia Phest 2014

There is quite an event brewing in Orange Park and it's called Phobia Phest! The first annual Phobia Phest is sure to be a good time for all ages. Brewer's Pizza is a family friendly establishment, and will host several activities for everyone to enjoy. There will be costume contests, pumpkin painting, and a pumpkin carving competition hosted by local artist,  Kyle Willis. Kyle will also be showcasing horror themed art and will be hanging around to sign his works.

Brewer's Pizza is home to Pinglehead Brewing Company, which is Orange Park's first and only brewery. And now it's home to the only Halloween party you need to attend this year! The place will be decked out in season appropriate decor and displays; there will even be live music and classic Halloween films being played during dinner.

Brewer's Pizza will offer a special Phobia Phest menu that will include seasonal dishes and limited tappings of Pinglehead Brews. Speaking of brews, one of the limited brews will be from yours truly! That's right, I was fortunate enough to team up with Pinglehead a few weeks ago and brew a beer that is truly unique. You won't want to miss it!

And for those you who prefer to stick to the soft drinks, Brewer's will be serving their own fresh-brewed root beer.

As if all the beer, food, music, art, and costumes aren't enough, Brewer's will have a paranormal expert on hand to raise those tiny hairs on the back of your neck with spine-chilling music. Orange Park Native, Brewer, and Paranormal expert (he was recently featured on Syfy's Ghost Hunters), John Harris, will be a guest host for the day.

Phobia Phest takes place on October 25, and will run from 11am-11pm. There will be outdoor seating all day. Brewer's Pizza is located at 14b Blanding BLVD, just before the Orange Park Mall. For more information, check out the Brewer's Pizza and Pinglehead Facebook pages.

Pinglehead Phobia Phest 2014 Agenda 
11:00am - 4:00pm 
Pinglehead Pilot Batch tappings (stay tuned for list)
Pumpkin Carving Contest
Pumpkin Painting for the kids

3:00pm – 4:00pm 
Costume Contest Voting ( Family friendly)
1st prize -$50 gift card
2nd prize - $25 gift card
3rd prize - $10 gift card
Contest winners announced at 4:00pm

Winners will be announced for Pumpkin Carving Comp.
1st prize -$50 gift card
2nd prize - $25 gift card
3rd prize - $10 gift card

6:00pm -10:00 pm 
Movie Screenings (inside)
Live Music (outside)
Evening Costume Contest Voting

Grand Prize Costume Contest
1st prize -$100 gift card
2nd prize - $75 gift card
3rd prize - $50 gift card

Thanks for reading the Beer Apostle and for supporting craft beer! Join in on the discussion by following me on Twitter and Facebook! Cheers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Earl Benton: A Green Champion for Beer

Posing with Earl Benton, CEO of Champion Brands Inc

The Green Lion Festival is fast approaching! On October 4th, Aardwolf Brewing Co. and USGBC North Florida will host this FREE festival, which supports green-focused business and innovative organizations.

Beer is a major factor in the festival this year. Not only is Aardwolf opening their space for the event, they have also brewed a special "Green Lion" beer that will be available during the festival. But, perhaps, the biggest beer-related component of the day is the home brewer's competition. The festival will be serving over 50 gallons of unique beers that come from the creative minds of local home brewers. Those who attend the event will have the opportunity to sample each beer and vote on their favorite. The top vote-getters will receive an engraved 64oz growler as their trophy.

As you can see, beer is very much at the center of what will make the Green Lion Festival a must-attend event. This week, I sat down with the CEO of Champion Brands, Earl Benton, who is one of the festival’s biggest sponsors.

Champion Brands distributes many of Jacksonville’s most popular beer, including Intuition Ale Works, Aardwolf, and the recently opened Veterans United Craft Brewery. Most people know that. But what most people don’t know, is Champion Brands is a green-focused company that is prioritizing sustainability! This makes for the perfect marriage between Champion Brands and the Green Lion Festival.

Benton has been working on a corporate sustainability project that has led to some major changes at Champion Brands. “This relationship between us and Green Lion made a lot of sense. We have always been on the forefront of sustainability. When we started to investigate compressed natural gas and LED lighting, we saw that it was saving us 6-digits a year. That’s good. Not only are you saving money, but you are helping save the environment,” Benton explained. 

Aardwolf 's batch brewed exclusively for Green Lion Festival
Benton shared that as a distributor, he holds himself accountable to the same high standards that his suppliers uphold. He referenced Sierra Nevada as a leading example. “They are spending 150 million dollars on a brewery and their waste water, when they release it into the river, is cleaner than the water in the river. It’s just unbelievable. It’s absolutely incredible.” Benton then added, “We’d like to leave this world at least in as good a shape as when we found it.”

Those who know Earl Benton personally might even argue he has already helped to make the world better then how he found it. At least when it comes to the Jacksonville beer scene.

Jacksonville, over the past few years, has experienced unprecedented growth in its beer community. Dozens of new businesses have opened, and Champion Brands has very much been in the fold of that growth.

When asked about the growth in the city’s craft beer sales, Benton pointed my attention to the local brewers who have committed their life (and sometimes their life savings) to the industry. ” Jacksonville has some notoriety with beer. Ben Davis (Owner, Intuition Ale Works) has done a great job. Aardwolf has some big days ahead. Veteran’s United, just opened up, they’re going to be a force to deal with. All these guys are making a very good product. It’s good for people to have choice.” Earl Benton said all of this with a smile on his face, as if he were boasting about the accomplishments of his own kids.

Benton has a big heart for beer in this community. You can see it in the way his company operates. You hear it in his voice. And it’s demonstrated in Champion Brands' sponsorship of the Green Lion Festival, an event that is really turning out to be a celebration of beer and home brewing.

A list of the 2014 Home Brew Competition Submissions
I can’t think of many home brewing events sponsored by a major distributor. At face value, one might assume the two don’t go together; a distributor makes his money through sales. Sales have to come from a licensed brewer. Home brewed beer brings in zero revenue dollars and cannot be sold. I asked Benton why he was supporting an event around home brewing. He said, “That’s how some of the best made their start. Ken Grossman (Owner, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.) started out in his garage and look at him today. Jim Koch, [founder of] Sam Adams is the same way." Being successful in the beer industry requires people who know what they want to accomplish and then go out and accomplish it. Home brewing is often the first step in this process.

I couldn't let an interview with distributor Benton finish without getting his thoughts on the 64oz growler that is outlawed in the State of Florida. This has been a controversial topic in Florida, and there are often mixed stories portrayed in the media about the stance of distributors on the topic. Like everything else in the interview, Benton shared his thoughts openly and with conviction.

“We are trying very hard in the State of Florida right now. We don’t think there should be a limit on the package. If someone wants a 68 ¾oz jug filled, what’s the big deal? As long as the State can figure out how to collect the appropriate taxes on that container, we don’t have a problem. And it’s not all on the legislative system in Tallahassee. The State already allows some to sell directly to the consumer. “ Benton is referring to breweries like Bold City and Intuition where beer is sold directly to customers straight from their taproom. In fact, beer-loving patrons can enter into any one of Jacksonville’s eight breweries and order a pint directly from the brewery. The one thing patrons can’t do is order a 64oz growler to-go. Not yet, at least.

Home brew champ will receive an engraved 64oz growler
My time with Earl Benton concluded with a tour of Champion Brands’ warehouse, which is the largest beer closet I have ever walked in! I was thoroughly impressed during my visit. Champion Brands is a classy company, led by a successful leader who happens to really love Jacksonville and its beer. That’s a pretty good combination.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Coming Soon: The Alewife Craft Beer Bottle Shop and Tasting Room

I love being on the receiving end of good news. In my inbox waiting for me today, was a press release announcing a new craft beer establishment that will open in the historic Five Points neighborhood of Riverside.

In the body of the email was the following description of Jacksonville. This description is not only accurate, but depicts the growing momentum of the beer community here. These are exciting times!

Jacksonville has emerged as a city at the forefront of the craft beer scene in the state of Florida, and also the entire southeast. The city features multiple acclaimed craft breweries; local, regional and national craft beer focused restaurants and bars; and a growing craft beer-specific retail market. The Alewife concept will complement the current offerings and provide an experience for Jacksonville residents not currently available.

The Alewife will add to a growing list of Riverside locations dedicated to craft beer. I will be sitting down to chat with co-owners, Kelly and Jamie, in the coming days, but until then check out the press release below.   

Jacksonville, Fla. – Alewife, a new craft beer establishment featuring retail craft beer sales, a tasting bar, and craft beer focused classes, is set to open this fall in Riverside’s Five Points. Owners Kelly Pickard and Jamie Burket have signed a lease to move into 1035 Park Street, the former site of Riverside Liquors. The business model is unique to the Jacksonville area, fulfilling not only the customer’s demand for a quality craft beer product, but also offering opportunities to explore, taste and learn about the evolving world of craft beer.

Architect's rendering
Featuring an extensive selection of bottles and cans from the best craft brewers in America, including
those local to Jacksonville, Alewife will serve as a community-focused establishment to celebrate and discover handcrafted ales and lagers from craft brewers across the country. Guests can grab a seat at the tasting bar to enjoy a flight or full pour from one of the six constantly rotating taps, or they can select a bottle from the cooler to enjoy as they browse the shelves. If guests don’t have time to enjoy a beer on-site, there will be six-packs, four-packs, large format bottles (“bombers”), and single 12 oz. bottles and cans to be taken home. 

In addition to the retail operation, Alewife will create a unique niche in the Jacksonville craft beer market by introducing a series of educational classes and workshops designed to expand the communities’ craft beer knowledgebase. These classes, designed for both seasoned beer enthusiasts and novices alike, will pair an educational component with beer tastings, and will be the foundation of Alewife’s goal of educating their customers about the diverse world of craft beer.

About owners Kelly Pickard and Jamie Burket: Pickard, who will lead front-of-house operations at Alewife, is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server, a home brewer and has experience working behind the bar with positions held in both Washington, DC and locally. Pickard has brewed beer with a commercial craft brewery, developed and led craft beer tasting and pairing events for both corporations and individuals, and completed numerous craft beer-focused classes and workshops. Her former professional career was in sustainability project management for an architecture trade association. 

Burket, who will run back-of-house operations, has a professional background in facility management, event operations and marketing. Her passion for the craft beer industry has led to participation in various craft beer-centered educational workshops and to extensive beer-focused travels.

About Alewife: Scheduled to open fall 2014, Alewife is a craft beer bottle shop and tasting room in Riverside’s Five Points neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Kelly Pickard and Jamie Burket will bring a unique craft beer experience to the Jacksonville community by creating a one stop shop for purchasing, tasting and learning about American craft beer. Alewife isn’t just a store or bar; instead, it’s a celebration of beer, the craftsmen (and women) who brew it, and the drinkers who respect it. For more information about Alewife, follow us at and

The name Alewife is a nod of respect to the rich history behind the role of women in brewing. In medieval Europe, before beer production increased in scale and prestige to become a commercial activity taken over by men, brewing beer was a domestic affair performed by women. When extra beer was available, the women, referred to as alewives, would hang a broom – known as an ale-stake – above the door. This let other households and passersby know that beer was for sale.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sourcing Suds: Veterans United Craft Brewery

'Sourcing Suds' is a monthly column I write for Buzz Magazine acknowledging a locally owned beer joint that's serving up locally brewed beer. The people and places pouring for us are what make the craft beer community what it is. Join me each month as I highlight some of the great places and beer found right here in Jacksonville!

Source: Veterans United Craft Brewery

There’s a new brewery in town! Veterans United Craft Brewery opened its doors in August with a huge celebration filled with music, food trucks, and, of course, plenty of beer! Since their opening, they have been making quite the wave around town. There are more than 30 locations where Jax beer lovers can find some VU brew, and that list is surely growing.

Founder and former Naval Flight Officer, Ron Gamble, was on hand during their grand opening night, and was even giving free tours to those who came out to support. Gamble's passion for brewing comes out in the tours. He was quick to share his story with the crowd of about 20. He mentioned how he had been home brewing since the late 90's and always wanted to open up his own brewery.

The facility is state-of-the-art and spacious. With room to grow, Gamble's brewing system was designed with the long-term in mind and his personal commitment to the success of the brewery is observable. Nothing about Veterans United seems rushed or ignored. The taproom is beautiful, the people are passionate, and the beer is enjoyable.

At the time of the grand opening, there were three different VU brews being served in the taproom and around the city. That number has already expanded with more set for release soon! In fact, Veterans United recently unveiled plans to release their Cup-O-Joe Oatmeal Espresso Stout, a signature beer that will be tapped in conjunction with the inaugural launch of their Mug Club.

Photo compliments of
The Mug Club launch will take place on September 20th. For $60, patrons can take advantage of this special opportunity and enjoy benefits such as a personalized mug for the taproom with discounted beer pours, a founding edition t-shirt, and invitations to exclusive events from the brewery. For more information, go to

Suds: Hopbanshee IPA

Hopbanshee is their flagship IPA and a beer that I found myself really enjoying during my visit. This is an approachable IPA and one that I expect will be a crowd-pleaser.  At only 66 IBUs, this can be considered a mild IPA by modern standards. Notes: Strong hop aroma, Citrus flavors balanced by a malt sweetness. Clean and refreshing finish. Mild and drinkable.

IPAs, for some, can be intimidating. Not Hopbanshee IPA. I have already told a few of my non-hop-loving-beer-drinkers that Hopbanshee is a beer they must try. They've agreed, and I will be sure to update once they sample it for themselves.

Veterans United Craft Brewery is a place you need to prioritize visiting. The taproom provides a welcoming environment, the beer is good, and the company is even better. If you see Ron there, be sure to approach him. You'll be glad you did, and you'll probably walk away with an understanding of the incredible passion he brings to this business. Oh, and be sure to tell him I sent ya!

Veterans United Craft Brewery is located at 8999 Western Way #104 Jacksonville, FL 32256. The taproom is open Wednesday-Sunday. Order a pint while you’re there or a growler to go! Be sure to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter

Thanks for reading the Beer Apostle and for supporting craft beer! Join in on the discussion by following me on Twitter and Facebook! Cheers!