Drink Up & Enjoy

[nggallery id=30 images=1]As the craft-brewing phenomenon continues to sweep the nation, Jacksonville's beer-loving community continues to grow rapidly. And with more in the works, the First Coast is poised to see its own craft beer renaissance. Let's take a quick tour.

Green Room Brewing (228 3rd St. N, 201-9823) is a bit of a misnomer, since the tap room is not green at all. Rather, it is cheery blue with clear Caribbean influences and several surf boards hanging on the walls. The vibe is laid back, and the beer selection—all from Florida breweries, along with four of their own brews—is very good. Green Room's first four brews hold up well with the rest of the breweries in town. Helles Yeah, a German-style Helles (or light) beer, is sparkling golden in color with mild, smooth sweetness and slightly hopped bitterness. Clean Ocean Brown Ale pours deep amber and sports sweet malts and mild hops bitterness. Shaka Oatmeal Stout is an approachable black beer with a thin creamy head, medium mouth-feel and mild roasted malts that produce a slight coffee flavor. The fourth house-brewed beer is Head High IPA, which has the amped up hops one expects in an IPA, but not so heavy as to send someone new to IPAs running scared.

Breathtaking views of the St. Johns River and Jacksonville skyline greet visitors to River City Brewing Company (835 Museum Cir., 398-2299). RCBC serves five house-brewed beers. Jag Light is the brewery's lightest offering, featuring a lemony scent with sweet grains and absent hop flavors. Jackson Pale Ale (named for the guy astride the horse on the Laura Street statue) is a mild pale ale with malty, nutty flavors and very mild hops. Riptide Porter offers a chocolate and caramel nose, drinks very thin and tastes smoky and slightly chocolatey.

Rustic country and distressed urban influences fill the tap room at Intuition Ale Works (720 King St., 683-7720). Intuition offers an ever-changing variety of brews ranging from the mild Jon Boat Koelsch-style, to the challenging grapefruit and pine notes of I-10 IPA. In between lie gems such as Shapeshifter Saison, a spicy, lemony interpretation of a Belgian farmhouse beer, and Knothead Alt-style Ale, a smooth, malty German style ale that is relatively rare in the United States. In all, Intuition has twelve taps of their own brews. The flagship hoppy and refreshing People's Pale Ale is always available along with several other standards like the spicy, fruity Belgian-style Golden Spiral and the dark, potent King Street Stout, with notes of coffee and dark chocolate.

Situated in a warehouse next to a large industrial-looking roll-up door, Bold City Brewery (2670 Rosselle St., #7, 379-6551) makes its home alongside the railroad tracks in Riverside. Dark, cool concrete floors and brick walls welcome thirsty patrons to a tap room decked out with beer cans and bottles high on shelves and windows looking into the brewery. Standards like Duke's Cold Nose Brown Ale, a smooth and nutty brew with just the right amount of roasted malts, and bright yellow Killer Whale Cream Ale, an approachable and well-balanced light ale, are highlighted. For the IPA fans, there is Mad Manatee IPA, a nicely hopped brew with an agreeable malt backbone and Chinook IPA, which has a nice floral character and slightly sweet, malty finish.

Brewer's Pizza (14B Blanding Blvd., 276-5159) boasts brown wainscoting on the walls, a shuffle board table and a well-stocked juke box, with the added attraction of a brewery behind a window on the back wall. Brewer's keeps four of their own beers on tap at any one time. Ambitious Monk is a pale gold, high-alcohol Belgian-style Tripel with sweet malt and slight banana aromas that tastes of more sweet malts, a hint of bubblegum, and a pleasant bitter aftertaste. Mystic, a Belgian-style pale ale, has a darker golden color, a pleasant sweet and grassy flavor and a moderate alcohol content of 5.9 percent. Pinglehead, an imperial red, boasts an orange-tinged hoppy flavor that is balanced nicely with sweet caramel malts. Finally, Moondance is an approachable, pitch black stout with chocolate and slight coffee notes.

Finding a seat in the rather small, but extremely popular tap room of A1A Ale Works (1 King St., #101, 829-2977) can be quite a feat, as tourists and locals alike congregate in the small, comfortable bar area. There are five locally-brewed beers to choose from, ranging from a light lager to a chewy, black stout. On the lighter end of the spectrum, King Street Light Lager is a refreshing thirst-quencher that tastes of wet grass, sweet malts and mild hop spice. On the other end is A. Strange Stout, a creamy, chocolatey beer that has just the right amount of bitter coffee flavor to even it out. In between the two extremes A1A offers pale, brown and red ales.