JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - May is going to be a great beer month on the First Coast.  (Honestly, April was a great month too with bottle releases, new brews and new openings, like Bottlenose Brewing.)

We have two breweries opening in May. This weekend, Atlantic Beach Brewing opens the first brewery in Atlantic Beach. Then on May 19, Hyperion opens Springfield's first brewery. There will be a lot of new brews to discuss!

Southern Swells released a brand new beer called Seven last week.  This is a malty red ale, with a good hoppy kick. It's a nice sessionable 5 percent brew that might surprise you if you don't normally like American red ales. It rides a nice balance for those who want hops and those who want malts.  

Southern Swells recently added Seven, a red ale and the seventh beer on tap at the brewery.  PHOTO:  Stephanie Danley

Lately, I have been having a big love affair with Chicago's Goose Island. I've yet to try a farmhouse, sour or wild ale that I don't immediately like from them.  Madame Rose is the most recent one I tried.  Rocking a 7 percent ABV it is very tart and pours a pinky brown. It's a Flanders style wild ale, so if you like the style, you will like this.

Goose Island also has the Bourbon County line of barrel aged beers. Recently we tried a sample of the BC Barleywine.  For the record, I have not been a huge fan of barleywines. I tried a bottle of Sierra Nevada's Big Foot about 20 years ago, before the craft beer industry boomed. Getting a bottle of Big Foot was like getting Coors beer east of the Mississippi in the 70's.  

In case you aren't an old fart like me, Coors did not ship beer east of the Mississippi River.  The story (fable) was they didn't ship here because the beer was cold brewed and they only shipped where it was cold. The real reason was because they couldn't distribute nationwide until 1981. So back in the day, if you wanted Coors you had to drive to it and then haul it home. It was the 'forbidden beer'. I recall a ski trip to North Carolina, where my parents stopped someplace that had Coors. They filled the van up and we 'sneaked' it home. It wasn't illegal per se, contrary to the Smoky and the Bandit movie, but in large quantities it could be considered illegal distribution.

Twenty years ago, I didn't know what barleywine was or how it was supposed to taste. It was very different from the beers that were available at that time. Basically I didn't really like Big Foot. I haven't really explored it since, but trying to expand my palate I have been exploring the style again. I am liking the style, particularly as a sipping beer. The Bourbon County barleywine tips the scale at 13.6 percent ABV.  Even just having a sample/flight pour I could feel it! Overall it has a rich flavor, the bourbon isn't overwhelming the beer, but is a smoothing finish. This barleywine was smoother than I remembered the style to be. Either that's my taste buds on several years of craft beer or Goose Island makes the style smoother.  I think I am going to revisit Big Foot.

Microbreweries like Goose Island, Lagunitas, Wicked Weed have been in the news lately for selling their stakes to "big beer" companies like InBev (Anheiser Busch) and Heinkein. Honestly, this is a double edge sword for me. In my gut, I want the breweries to retain their independent status. However, as a beer drinker, the larger companies have bigger distribution areas and we are getting beers we never could before. Not having Goose Island brews before the sale, means I can't tell if they are better or worse. Let me know what you think on our Facebook page. Is it good? Or is it bad.

I am loving our local brews too. Aardwolf's Horchata Adalwolf (Pilot Batch) was an exceptional treatment of their already great Pils. The cinnamon came out with a milky creaminess. I'm already a fan of Adalwolf, prior to this batch, but at 5.5 percent ABV, I could see me drinking a lot of it. I'm hoping they will revisit this pilot batch!

Wicked Barley's brown ale, Macarooni was a favorite with both Ed and I. He's a big fan of coconut in general, but loves any brew with coconut. It is exactly as advertised. It's a little sweet, the nose is strong coconut and that lingers until the finish. Ed liked this so much, we took a crowler home from Beer:30 and we made it four days before he cracked it!  

On a side note, more and more places are putting in Crowler machines. The 32-ounce size is perfect for two pints. It is truly a way to have a draft beer away from the keg. My thought is to get a number of crowlers with different beers and have a tasting party. Can you have a can share instead of a bottle share? Why not!  

We are planning on visiting Atlantic Beach Brewing this weekend and will give a full report in the next blog. Don't forget Green Room is releasing Quetzalcoatl at Noon on Saturday. This is the Tequila Barrel aged ale brewed with casava root, chili peppers and chocolate. Oh so good!

Sunday May 7, Brewz is hosting a KBS Brunch, they will have the ever popular Founders KBS as well as other breakfast stouts, plus at 2 p.m. great food from the Famous Toastery in Jacksonville Beach.

For more events across the First Coast, like our Facebook page. I post events there during the week to help you plan. If you have an event, post it there and I will share!

Cheers y'all!