Here in Jacksonville, craft beer is pretty much everything. There are 8 breweries on the "Jax Ale Trail," which has been on my bucket list for the longest time. When my friend Kris came to town, he was more than up for the challenge. We grabbed a few other friends, the lovely folks at Uber, and headed out for (more than) a few beers.
First up on the Ale Trail was deciding the best route to take. Kris got in Friday night, so we went to one brewery that night after dinner. The Ale Trail takes you all over Jacksonville, including the Beaches and Orange Park. You can receive a passport at any of the breweries, and you receive a stamp when you order a beer from each different location. After you finish the passport, you can send it in for some Jax goodies, or just keep the passport to remember your trips.
Now, for the technicalities: Jacksonville has 8 original breweries, but there are also other places that brew their own beer. For the purpose of the Ale Trail, we stuck to the original 8.
Stop 1: Engine 15 Brewing Co.
Located out at Jax Beach, Engine 15 is probably my favorite of the 8 breweries. They have a huge selection, and there's something for everyone. I stuck with the J'Ville Lemon Shandy, and Kris was a fan of the Nut Sack (that's totally a thing), which you can also find for sale at some of our local restaurants. Engine 15 also has food, but we were so full from our burgers at Poe's Tavern that we didn't (couldn't) entertain the idea of eating more.
Stop 2: Pinglehead Brewing Company
On Saturday, after filling up on Maple Street biscuits and grabbing our friend David, we took the long trek over the Buckman Bridge into Orange Park. Pinglehead is sort of hidden from view - it's located in a pizza place. I had been to all of the other breweries before, but Pinglehead was always "that other one" that I needed to get to. It was well worth the wait, and Grandpa's Cough Medicine was pretty tasty. We didn't grab any food, but there were many people having pizza in the restaurant.
Stop 3: Veterans United Craft Brewery
Back over the Buckman and off of Baymeadows is the hidden gem, Veterans United. This brewery is located behind an office park, and you would never know it was there if you didn't read about it first. Veterans was packed, with a food truck set up outside. Our favorite beer here was the Buzzin' Bee, and we would have stuck around here longer if we didn't have 5 more places to visit.
Stop 4: Zeta Brewing Company
Jacksonville Beach is home to 3 breweries, which made this part of the trip super easy. First up was Zeta, which also features a full bar and food (awesome brunch!) menu. Kate and Kurt stuck around for a pizza, while the rest of us walked to Pita Pit for lunch. To be honest, the beer here was our least favorite, despite the brewery having a really chill beach feel to it. We stuck with a flight, which we drank quickly so we could head elsewhere.
Stop 5: Green Room Brewing
Despite having blue walls, Green Room was home to Kris's favorite beer, and the only stout I enjoy drinking - the Count Shakula. When we aren't doing the Ale Trail, we love going to Green Room because it's also dog friendly! This was actually Jax Beach's first microbrewery, and they have a really big game room where you can play mega Jenga.
Stop 6: Intuition Ale Works
Two bridges and a 25-minute ride later, we arrived in Riverside to start the tail end of the Ale Trail. Intuition was our first stop. We were lucky this time around, because it was Intuition's last day in Riverside before they move downtown. Because it was the last day, there was a huge crowd of people. Intuition typically has a food truck set up outside, and once they're downtown they'll be surrounded by some awesome restaurants.
Stop 7: Bold City Brewery
The original, and the first brewery I ever came to in Jacksonville. Bold City is (or was) right around the corner from Intuition, so we took a quick walk over. Because it was Kris's first visit, he got a free sampler of their beers. I went with the pumpkin ale, which is freshly back on tap. Despite this being stop 7, we were feeling pretty good...just ready to be done with everything.
Stop 8: Aardwolf Brewing Company
The end of the line came over in San Marco. Aardwolf is home to our Wednesday night group run with 1st Place Sports, and for us it was home to our last passport stamp. Aardwolf is one of the coolest hangout spots in the city...even though I'm not a major fan of their beer. They don't have many fruity options, so I typically count on the San Marco Sour to get me through the visit. We spent plenty of time toasting our "achievement" before heading off for dinner...and water.
I've always believed that the best way to get to know a city is to eat or drink at as many local spots as possible. I highly recommend taking the Ale Trail for yourself (just...not all in one day) and finding your new favorite beer!
I'm Jenn! I'm a baker, blogger, sorta-runner, and writer living in Jacksonville, Florida!