It was hot, with a cool breeze and happy people! The Riverside Craft Beer Festival was once again a success. We arrived early for the VIP tickets and loved being able to talk with folks before it got too crowded.
I had a long chat with Sean Bielman, co-owner of Engine 15 Brewing about the disturbing news that the City of Jacksonville shut down their brewing facility tap room this past Friday night (a la Bold City tap room last year). Seems the Fire Marshal came in, even though Engine 15 has been open over a year at that location and had two passed Fire Inspections, the Marshals closed the doors.
Sean said that they had crossed every "t" and dotted every "i" with the city on opening, working with architects and submitting multiple drawings, etc. If you recall, it was a lengthy procedure to open at the Myrtle Street facility as a tap room. They have made many improvements since that time too. Yet just like what happened to Bold City last year, the tap room was shut.
My personal opinion is the City could have handled this and the Bold City Brewing closures a lot better than they did. With this being the second such closing it's almost like the city is going after breweries. To me that is just plain bureaucratic B.S. They should KNOW what the local breweries are doing to kick start renovations all over town.
For example, when Bold City opened on Roselle Street all those years ago, there was no King Street entertainment district. People simply did not go to that side of town. It was dangerous. I remember thinking I would likely not go to the facility because of safety issues. Fast Forward to this past year's Anniversary Party. I went with no fear. People were filling the parking lot, enjoying the night. The area is revitalized. I put that on Bold City and Intuition Ale Works moving there.
Look at Main Street, I went to Hyperion Brewing when they first opened. The streets were empty, storefronts closed, people weren't walking around. That was less than a year ago. I went to Hyperion for the Beer Cheese event (which by the way was sort of awesome) and there are many new storefronts opened, people were riding their bikes and walking down Main Street. Many walk between Main & Six Brewing and Hyperion Brewing. Strings Sports Brewery is opening just down the street, Crispy's is open and more. The revitalization of Springfield started with the breweries.
So City of Jacksonville, you should understand the importance of these businesses. They are bringing people to these areas. They are bringing other businesses. Every day you shut down Engine 15 Downtown you are delaying the revitalization of that part of Brooklyn. I understand trying to make sure people are safe, but to have passed this business in the planning stage, passed this business in fire inspections, Ok'd everything they have done and then this? In this person's opinion, you are harassing the very businesses that are raising the property values and improving the entire city as a whole.
I was angry with Bold City's closure last year, for this to happen again less than a year later is absolutely enraging.
Sean said they would be at the City Hall first thing Monday to figure out how to re-open as soon as possible. I'll keep you updated on the Facebook page.
Meanwhile at the Festival, there was some good news too. Liz Jacobs, co-owner of Legacy Ale Works, said they should sign a lease this week for the greater Bartram Park area. They have had a saga to find a location in the Mandarin area. Twice, lease deals have fallen through.
It's tough to find the correct space for a brewery, Liz said, to get the right square footage with adequate parking was a difficult procedure, but she's happy to report they have found a spot that meets their requirements. They will be occupying 3300 SF in the Shoppes of Durbin Crossing Plaza, located at Old St Augustine Road and US 1. Those of you who have been to Brewz Bartram Park, it will be across the street! Hopefully, we will be drinking more of their delicious brews, including Liz's first brewing batch!
Right next to Legacy Ale Works was Fishweir Brewing which is aiming to change the karma of the old Fat Kat Club on Edgewood Avenue (near Town Beer Co.). Renovations are beginning to modify the nightclub into a brewery. They had three beers to sample at the event, I tried two of the three, not making it back for the third.
My first beer of the day was Pucker Factor Kettle sour, of course. It was delightfully tart without making you look like a Sour Patch Kid. It was refreshing and set my palate for the rest of the day. The other was Bait & Switch, Coffee Blonde Ale. The hubby really enjoyed this one, and he's not a coffee drinker. The coffee notes added a richness to the beer, perfect warm weather beer.
In the Environmental win category, Saltwater Brewery out of Delray Beach has created a six-pack holder that is made from brewery byproducts. The rings are sturdy but compostable, with the added benefit of being nutrition to sea life if one happens to make it to the waterways. Very awesome!
Overall the beers were top notch this year. The redesign of the event, grouping by geographic rather than distributor was great too. I mostly stuck around the Florida section, after all Drink Local! And as hard as I tried I still didn't hit all the breweries I planned to visit. It truly is a great event and for a great cause.
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