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!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin

Brewery: Boston Beer Company
Location: Boston, MA
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Beer Apostle' Grade: B+

It's the first week of September and pumpkin beers have been on the shelves (and in my fridge) for over a month already! While some have a problem with pumpkin brews being released this early, I really don't see what the fuss is all about. Pumpkins are great. They remind me of the Fall. Living in Florida, I'll take any reason to get my mind off the unrelenting heat of the summer months.

And although I've been sippin' on these beers for weeks, I at least waited until September to post my first pumpkin review. If you think this is even a bit too early, simply bookmark this page and come back in four weeks. For everyone else, enjoy the review below and, as always, let me know what you think in the comments section and on social media.

Appearance:  Deep ruby highlights. Sandy colored head laces the glass and lingers.

Aroma: Pumpkin spices and booze. I also get a deep malt aroma followed by candied sugar, molasses, and honey.

Taste: As complex as the aromas are in this beer, the flavors really deploy on the palate to create a pretty complex tasting beer. At first, I taste everything that I picked up on the nose: pumpkin and spices, burnt sugar, and molasses. The spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, and maybe clove. Beyond that, there's almost a wine-like presence that's quite nice. This beer is bold and boozy. The finish is alcohol, cinnamon, and pumpkin. Mildly dry.

Body: This is a full-bodied beer. Mild carbonation helps Fat Jack's syrupy consistency coat the tongue.

Overall: This is quite enjoyable. Lots of flavor here. I appreciate that this beer is not sweet. The nose is a bit deceiving. I thought this was going to be overly sweet and spiced. On the contrary, Fat Jack turns out to be quite balanced and feels more like a mulled wine, especially as it warms. I definitely recommend you give this a try.

I will admit though (here it comes...), this beer is a bit heavy, maybe too heavy, to be enjoyed on a hot summer day. I can just imagine how much more enjoyable Fat Jack would be if it were consumed next to an open fire in the middle of November. But then again, I live in Florida, where the middle of November is merely a euphemism for, "Yep, it's still friggin hot in Florida."

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Veterans United Craft Brewery Now Open

Veterans United Craft Brewery has a big weekend set to kickoff their grand opening! The festivities begin on Friday and continue Saturday. This is sure to be an exciting opening, as Veterans United has lined up live music, food trucks, and (of course) plenty of beer! Owner, Ron Gamble will be on hand along with the rest of his staff to talk beer, pour beer, and drink beer. This opening is a must-attend event, and I highly recommend you make it out either Friday or Saturday. Or both!

I was fortunate enough to gain a sneak peak of the taproom and brewery on Thursday evening. There were dozens of members from the local press, including some of my favorite beer writers and contributors from the Jacksonville area. In addition to sampling some of VU's brews, the highlight of my night was touring the facility and listening to Gamble share his passion and vision for the brewery. With 30+ accounts already signed up, Jacksonville locals should expect to see his beer flowing from taps as soon as this coming Monday.

The festivities begin at 5pm on Friday. Check out VU's Facebook page for more details on this weekend's celebration.

Below are some of the sights and happenings from Thursday's media preview of the brewery:

Scout Dog 44 Amber Ale was the first beer I tried. It's a malt-forward ale with notes of nuts, biscuit, caramel, and earthy hops.

After the amber, I moved on to the Raging Blonde. It's an easy-to-drink ale that's light in color but doesn't skimp on the flavor. Notes: Malt-forward, doughy, crisp finish with slight bitterness.

The last beer I tried was the Hop Banshee IPA. My favorite beer of the night, this is an approachable IPA and one that I think will become 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.

Here are the rest of my photos from the night. Spread the word and visit Veteran's United Craft Brewery this weekend. And share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below. Cheers!

Owner, Ron Gamble, takes members of the media on a tour of his brand new facility
For more information about the brewery, please visit, or follow them on Facebook (/VUbrew) and Twitter (@VUbrew).

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sourcing Suds: Brew Five Points

Sourcing Suds is a column by the Beer Apostle, Brian Little, recognizing beer that’s served and brewed locally. Join him each month as he highlights different craft bars and brews! 

Source: Brew Five Points

Brew Five Points is a craft beer and espresso bar that recently opened in the historic Five Points area of Riverside. I recently sat down with owner, Jack Twachtman, who shared his philosophy around Brew. “Our concept is a reflection of this neighborhood. We are all about celebrating the craftsman—everything from our drinks to the art and even our furniture. We are all craft.”

Brew will focus on craft beer and espresso. “We are bringing an atmosphere that’s focused on community where you can try a local beer, or have a craft cup of espresso. We welcome everyone,” added Twachtman.

The focus on craft beer and espresso makes this the perfect spot to begin and end your day. Before work, stop by and try one of their espressos and pair it with one of their artisan breads and toast. After work, grab a local beer or try one of their hand-mixed beer cocktails.

Suds: Big John's Apricot Wheat, Bold City Brewing

Slightly cloudy, this beer gives off a nice yellow hue with a creamy head. The aroma is predominantly of grain and wheat with subtle notes of apricot and lemon. The flavors follow the nose, but the apricot is definitely more pronounced on the palate. There's a nice citrus spritz on the finish, which offers a clean and crisp feel. Light, drinkable, and refreshing. This is a perfect summer beer brewed and served locally.

Brew Five Points is located at 1024 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204. Visit their Facebook page for special events and special tappings.

To see more from the Beer Apostle, visit Follow us on Twitter (@beerapostle) and Facebook (@beerapostle).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Veterans United Craft Brewery Set to Open

Here's some exciting news for the craft beer scene in Jacksonville!

Veterans United Craft Brewery’s Founder and Brewmaster, Ron Gamble, has announced that the grand opening date for the taproom will be Friday, August 22nd, 2014. Veterans United is one of the newest microbreweries headquartered in Jacksonville, and the first packaging operation on the

The opening of the taproom and brewery is a welcome addition to the burgeoning craft beer scene in Jacksonville. “We have already experienced a big surge of support from the community for what we are brewing and for our plans to reinvest our time and effort in local causes here. I really hope people will see our passion and excitement for both,” said Gamble.

Taproom festivities will be from 5pm until 10pm on Friday, and continue on Saturday from 1pm until 10pm. Dirty Birds Wings on the Fly and Driftwood BBQ food trucks will be on site Friday and Saturday evenings. Shawn Lightfoot and Arvid Smith will be the featured musicians. Tours of the premises begin at 1:00pm on Saturday, and will be available on the hour through 4:00pm. Branded
apparel and glassware are available for purchase at the bar.

About Veterans United Craft Brewery
Founded in 2013 by a diverse group of military veterans, Veterans United Craft Brewery is a microbrewery located in Jacksonville, Florida. At the helm is Ron Gamble, Brewmaster and former Naval Flight Officer, who is set on pouring his enthusiasm and dedication to the art of craft brewing into the creation of unique, flavorful beers. Pints, kegs, and growlers of flagship styles, Raging
Blonde Ale and HopBanshee India Pale Ale—as well as seasonal and special edition brews—may be found at the taproom located in the heart of the Baymeadows area, at 8999 Western Way #104, Jacksonville, Florida.

For more information about the brewery, please visit, or follow them on Facebook (/VUbrew) and Twitter (@VUbrew).

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Belgium Beer Dinner at Whole Foods, Jacksonville

Last week, my wife and I attended the New Belgium beer pairing dinner at Whole Foods, Jacksonville. I received the tickets from Mike over at Floribrew. com, and was excited to attend my first beer pairing dinner. Coincidentally, this was also my first night out with the wife since we had Ezri three weeks ago. The two of us were due for an evening out, and this was the perfect event for us.

The dinner featured several beers from New Belgium that were paired with five different dishes prepared by the Whole Foods culinary staff.

Beer Ranger, Kirsten Kelley, kicks things off with an anecdote about New Belgium's flagship, Fat Tire
When we arrived, the tabled were set up with the evening's menu, a complimentary New Belgium pint glass, and a cold Fat Tire. Once everyone was seated, the event started with an introduction from Kirsten Kelley, the local New Belgium Beer Ranger.

Kelley did a superb job of sharing the beer story behind each brew that was paired throughout the night. Starting with Fat Tire, Kelley shared the story of how New Belgium's flagship was named after the co-founder's bike trip across Europe.

After we enjoyed our Fat Tire, we were served with our first course: Moroccan chicken meatballs with preserved lemon yogurt sauce, paired with Snapshot Wheat Beer. The meatballs were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The meatballs were heavily spiced and the yogurt sauce was a nice companion. Snapshot Wheat served as a delicious palate cleanser. The light wheat flavor of the beer helped to tame the exotic flavors of the meatballs. Snapshot also happened to be my wife's favorite beer of the night.

The second course was a fresh Arugula salad with crispy avocado, marcona almonds and smoked cherry vinaigrette. The salad paired with a 2012 Biere De Mars. While I am not really a salad guy, I loved the crispy avocado. Any time you can throw something fried on top of a salad, I'm a fan. The arugula provided a slightly bitter flavor, which paired well with the sour and slightly tart notes from the Biere De Mars.

In between courses, I took the opportunity to mingle and take some pictures. Sitting right next to me was Regina, of Also, Mark Wisdom (The Jax Beer Guy) was on hand to give Regina bunny ears. Real mature, Mark. Real mature.

Big Smiles with Regina
Before long, the third course arrived. This course was the one I was most unsure of going into the dinner. It was a smoked duck spring roll with sweet and spicy Thai vinaigrette. The rolls were paired with Gratzer, another in the Lips of Faith series, which also happens to be brewed in collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing.

The duck was flavorful and gave off a nice smokiness. Duck isn't something I have consumed much, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed this. The Thai sauce brought a tangy/sweet touch to the duck that I enjoyed. Gratzer, which is an old Polish style of beer, provided an oaky, smoky, and but overall light beer to wash down the duck with. Gratzer was easily one of my favorite beers of the night!

Again, I found myself mingling in between courses. I grabbed Kirsten for a photo op. This was my first time meeting her, but hope to attend another New Belgium event again. Kirsten was a great host and created a wonderful night for all of us in attendance.

Photo with Kirsten Kelley, Beer Ranger for New Belgium Brewing Co.
For our second to last course, we were served Bison. This made me very happy (I am a born and bred Buffalonian after all). The Bison was a beautifully prepared espresso-rubbed tenderloin with dark cherry demi glaze, paired with 1554 Black Lager. This was the best dish of the night in my opinion.

The bison was tender, cooked medium, and full of flavor. The demi glaze cherry sauce offered a sweet and slightly tart combination to the meaty goodness. The dish included multi-colored potatoes, which was just fun. Have you ever had a blue potato? I didn't even know there was such a thing!

1554 Black Lager was a real treat here. Kirsten shared that this is a beer not currently distributed in Florida. We all savored the opportunity to taste this well-crafted black lager. 1554 is malt-forward with strong notes of roast and hints of smoke.

All good things end with dessert. On this night, that meant a spicy ginger carrot cake with cream cheese icing, paired with Rampant IPA. My wife said this was the best carrot cake she had ever had, and I agreed. The ginger was spicy without being intense. And the icy, OH THE ICING! So sweet and creamy! Rampant IPA is a hop-forward beer that offers sweet fruit and floral notes. This was a nice pairing with the overtly sweet cake.

With full bellies and happy palates, my wife and I looked at each other and shared about how fun this was. In addition to the food and beer, the company was great. We sat with a couple we hadn't met before and talked about their love for home brewing and local beer happenings like this.

Before leaving, Kirsten pulled out one more surprise and offered giveaways based on a tiny sticker on the bottom of your pint glass. My glass happened to have the only green sticker, which meant I received a nice and shiny stainless steel vacuum insulated New Belgium growler!
The growler appropriately says, "Pairs well with beer-loving friends."
Visit New Belgium on Twitter to check out more events like this, and be sure to follow @Floribrew too!

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