Brewery Snapshot – Aardwolf Brewing in Jacksonville, Florida
Brewery Snapshot is a new series on the blog where I review a brewery that really captured my attention. Unlike my Brewery Spotlight series, which takes deeper look at a brewery through behind the scenes tours and interviews, Brewery Snapshot is meant to provide a brief overview of what the brewery offers and why you should visit / seek out their beers.
When I sat down at the steel top bar that nearly runs the length of the Aardwolf Brewing tap room in Jacksonville’s San Marco neighborhood, I was a little apprehensive.
While the taproom was absolutely stunning with exposed brick walls, industrial lighting polished for the modern yet retro look, and neatly written and placed dangling chalkboard menu, it appeared to be missing that malt-under-the-finger-nails look found in many up-and-coming craft breweries.
I squeezed into the only open seat at the bar and asked the bartender, Cory, what he recommended. When he answered my question with “anything infected,” I knew this was my kind of brewery. I then asked Cory to pour me a flight that highlighted both fan favorites and what he felt was the best of Aardwolf Brewing.
It turns out the beers were just as polished as the tasting room itself.
From the San Marco Sour that Corey recommended I use as a palate cleanser to start my tasting to the Great American Beer Festival medal winning Belgian Pale, each beer was intricately complex and balanced at the same time, with an enjoyable dance of flavors.
I easily understood what the GABF judges saw in the Belgian Pale Ale. The overly bitter notes many brewers are dousing the style with were tamed with a delicate blend of banana, tropical fruit, bread, and yeast spice. This would definitely be my go to beer if I lived in Jacksonville.
Next on my flight was Storm Agedden, a black IPA combining smoke, roasted coffee, bitter chocolate, and citrus. At first sip, I found the beer and little off putting with the rather conflicting flavor combination. On second taste, I found the beer to be quite refreshing for the chill evening. The heavier notes warmed me up (as did the 7.4% ABV) and the citrus bitter refreshed my palate.
The White Russian, a local favorite, should be renamed French Toast in a Glass as that’s what it resembled. I wish I had the high-octane stout with me that morning as I awoke to catch the unseasonably chilly sunrise.
Of course, I’m saving the sours for last, sort of like saving the best for last. These beers are where Aardwolf stands out among the other worthy players in the Jacksonville craft beer scene. The San Marco Sour was an easy sipper. The acid and sour notes that characterize the style were balanced rather than in your face flavor punches, making it a quencher that would pair perfectly with an afternoon at the beach.
I found the same sentiment in the pair of goses I sampled. They weren’t traditional in the sense that Westbrook’s is (the hallmark for traditional goses brewed in the US). However, they were perfect for the laid back, beach environment. The regular Gose could be slammed all day at the beach and the Orange Ginger Gose would complete a balmy, Florida evening. Expect more sours from Aardwolf Brewing as the brewery experiments with the 1,000-gallon brandy barrel that recently arrived from Italy.
Aardwolf Brewing delivers good beer and a great atmosphere for the people of Jacksonville, Florida.
As I settled into my flight and made friends with the guy sitting next to me, I found the environment to be the ideal setting for inviting conversation and camaraderie. Apparently, the following of locals that filled every seat in the brewery agreed. And isn’t that the purpose of a brewery? To create an environment that’s warm and welcoming, sparking ideas and friendship. It also helps that Terrapin bred Michael Payne is the head brewer brewing some of Jacksonville’s best beers.