Brewery Spotlight – Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, Florida.
Brewery Spotlight is a new series on the blog where I take a deeper look at a brewery with behind the scenes interviews and tours. Unlike my Brewery Snapshot series, which provides a quick overview of why you should visit a brewery, Brewery Spotlight provides more of the story and inspiration behind the beer.
As I sat staring at my beer flight that included a few extras, I realized that I needed to put on my big boy pants to get through all the craft beer deliciousness.
It was a challenge I was willing to take as I had been anticipating my visit to Intuition Ale Works since I first started planning my trip to Jacksonville, Florida for the Jax Ale Trail. First sip told me that if Intuition’s upcoming relocation and expansion is any prediction of where craft beer is going in Jacksonville, then the beer community there is in for a bright future (and that I would totally rock out this monstrous beer flight).
While I enjoyed all the beer I sampled in Jacksonville, I found two breweries that were pushing the limits of where beer is going not only locally, but nationally. That other brewery was the previously covered Aardwolf Brewing. Both Aardwolf and Intuition Ale Works are moving beyond the IPA with the creative use of barrel aging, Belgian yeast strains, and sour programs.
While Intuition Ale Works wasn’t the first brewery to open in Jacksonville, they did approach the craft beer seen with a unique offering of education.
Owner and Brewer Ben Davis opened the brewery in 2010. His previous background happened to be in wine, but he was always inspired by and interested in Belgian beers. Thus, he attended Siebel Institute in Chicago to learn the ins and outs of brewing, which he then paired with the wine industry’s emphasis on educating a consumer beyond Two Buck Chuck.
This didn’t mean Intuition entered the market with barnyard sour bombs meant to shock the palate. They still focused on what the consumer was currently drinking, and that was an IPA. Through a loyalty program and constant education at the tap house, Intuition began the push beyond typical brewery offerings.
The beer education process begins with Intuition’s servers. All bartenders at Intuition Ale Works have their first level Cicerone certification. Their knowledge of beer definitely shows as they not only described the beers but answered all my beer geekery questions with an impressive knowledge.
Other education programs include regular beer and food pairings; their annual Underdark bottle release, which each year showcases their Imperial Stout aged in a different barrel; and their new Premonition tap room only bottle series, which is meant to highlight a beer served and consumed more in a community style setting popular in Belgian.
Their emphasis on education and delivering top-quality, handcrafted ales has sparked a rabid following and rapid growth. Intuition has doubled production each year since their opening to the point where I saw a brew house that was dangerously packed with brewing equipment, kegs, etc. They are desperately in need of the new facility to open.
The brewery is wowing Floridians with their small-batch handcrafted ales so much that they are abandoning their Riverside roots for a new and exciting facility in downtown Jacksonville.
The new brewery will be located steps from the Shipyards, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, and EverBank Field. It will be craft beer fans’ go to spot before and after Jaguars games (or maybe during if the team keeps playing like they do…).
The impressive plans call for a 4,230 square-foot rooftop beer garden with a small taproom on the ground floor. Unlike Intuition’s current location on King Street in Riverside, the location will have a restaurant. The menu has yet to be decided, but beer fans can expect beer forward food. Whether that’s upscale bar food or higher end gastropub style food is yet to be determined.
On the brewer’s end, the massive brew house will include over 30,000 square feet of brewery space. Production capacity is expected to eventually triple as the brewery moves from a current 10 barrel system to a new 30 barrel system. Within the first year of operation, the brewery is expected to grow from 8,000 barrels a year to 20,000 a year.
But back to my big-boy flight of deliciously handcrafted, Belgian inspired ales…
The first beer they hit me with was the Trappist Speedball (yeah, I went there…) – an 8.5% ABV Belgian Quad brewed with Bold Bean Kenyan Thithi Coffee. The beer was brewed in collaboration with South Florida’s Funky Buddha Brewery. To be honest, I probably needed the coffee kick as this was my third brewery of the day and I still had one more to go. The Speedball delivered big coffee and big roastiness without the bitter bite than can accompany a coffee infused ale.
Now that Intuition had me addicted (Speedball has too many references…), I moved onto the King Street Stout. This imperial stout delivers a smooth, creamy chocolate mouthfeel with a dry, and slightly bitter finish that leaves the mouth wanting for me. At 8.5% ABV, this is a dangerously easy beer to drink. Then again, I discovered several beer that sipped in the same mantra.
I’m not a fan of any beer that uses honey, but you have to respect a beer that’s name Honey Badger because honey badger don’t care… The honey is added to the Belgian-style saison and produces a beer that was mellowly sour. It almost reminded me of Wicked Weed’s White Angel, which is heavy on the muscadine grape influences. The Honey Badger drank like a white wine in the same vein, hiding the 9% ABV.
Next, I moved into some of Intuition’s hoppier selections with the Anniversary IPA. The celebratory hop offering was brewed and dry-hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo hops and fermented with Brettanomyces. The IPA had a very refined and nuanced nose and delivered a delicate blend of funk and bitter on the tongue. This is the kind of beer that bottle hunters would go nuts for.
I did have to snub my nose at the Cocoa Caliente – a milk stout brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, and datil peppers. The heat was too overpowering for my taste and the other flavors and nuances were lost.
Easy on the Eyes is their session IPA brewed with Centennial and Citra hops. The juicy, citrus notes helped clean out the smoke from the Cocoa Caliente. Easy on the Eyes would make a great beach or boat afternoon sipper.
Last up was my favorite of the day – Premonition No. 1. The first addition in the new tap room only bottle series is another Belgian inspired Saison, this time fermented with Brettanomyces and dry hopped with Amarillo hops. The 8.2% beer was easy to drink with very minimal funk lying under bright tropical fruit. It’s a beer that’s close to impossible to put down. I wish I could take a bottle home, but alas, it’s only available for onsite consumption making Intuition Ale Works an even more special brewery to visit.
Intuition’s beers are currently available throughout Florida.
With the new facility, the brewery eventually plans to start selling their handcrafted ales outsides of the Sunshine State – perhaps starting in Georgia. For now, beer fans will need to either visit the brewery or shop their favorite bottle shop or craft beer bar for a taste of Intuition’s beers.
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