Sitting one block from the Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach and overlooking the park sits one of the First Coast's youngest breweries, Zeta Brewing Company.
Having recently upgraded to a larger 15 barrel brewing system, you may have seen their brews popping up in tap rooms and bars around the city. We did and tried the Ruby Beach (Jacksonville Beach's first name) Wheat. A light and tart raspberry wheat beer that immediately told Ed and I we needed to check them out at the source.
We first sampled Zeta at Brewz during a Zeta pint night and met Taylor Hill, the passionate Brand Ambassador of Zeta Brewing. After seeing her around at a few events, I knew I needed to find out more about Zeta. So on a Monday afternoon, we met for a beer or two to talk about Zeta.
The second you walk in the door, you know you are in a brewery. The tanks are proudly on display, a huge center bar fills the space with a variety of high top tables surrounding it. At the back, you can see the kitchen, with a pizza oven front and center. I knew I liked where this was going!
We sat at the bar, and at Taylor's suggestion, I tried their Maggie P Saison. She tells me that Head Brewer Chris Prevatt, has a love of sour beers. It was a hot afternoon, so the cool tart beer hit the spot. I'd recommend it to those who are looking for a refreshing brew. Ed liked mine so much he ordered one for himself on the second round.
As we discussed Zeta's core brews, Taylor says their goal is to have 'cores that are drinkable'. They brew seasonals, such as the Maggie P Saison and coming soon (I hope) Wine Barrel aged Barleywine.
They currently offer Twin Finn Lager, American Garage IPA, Power to the Porter, Private Rye Pale Ale and Ruby Beach Wheat year round. Sometimes demand overwhelms supply, so one might not be available until they brew more.
Fun Fact: Brewer Chris was a Chef and a Home Brewer previously. He brewed an IPA in his garage. In a nod to that first beer, Zeta's IPA is named American Garage IPA. He brews American Garage as a East Coast IPA with Cascade and Columbus hops.
I asked Taylor about the name Zeta. She said, she asked owners Mark Vanderloo and Aaron Webb the same question. She laughingly said the answer was pretty vague, but generally it is different and unique. The name is just something 'fun'. It reflects the basic theme of Zeta, to be a fun place to come; be it for the drinks, food or the entertainment.
"We want a laid back place", Taylor says, "where people want to come in and relax" And to have a 'good time.'
They host trivia on Monday nights, live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and on Sunday afternoons, the Zeta house band, "Who Rescued Who" plays. During late night on the weekends, it can get a bit wild. There is always something going on, you'll need to keep an eye on the Events calendar.
Earlier this month, Chef Shane Chesire, formerly of the popular First Street Grille, overhauled the menu, creating casual and beer friendly food. In fact, Taylor says beer plays a part in many dishes. For example, their Hummus, Beer Cheese and Spent Grain Tabbouleh Board appetizer.
Unique to Zeta, Taylor says, is they offer two menus. Brunch is served 7 days a week and their Lunch/Dinner menu.
Taylor told me, they wanted a place where "food and beer are meant to be enjoyed together." For Brunch they offer chicken and waffles, but as a hand held, "the waffle batter is made with our porter and serves as a wrap for the chicken".
I found it interesting that Taylor holds many duties around Zeta. She's that kind of person that is involved. She started as a bartender, so she knows the brews. She also pitches in with Brewer Chris and his assistant Matt Depin on brewing day.
"It gives me a different perspective from other brewery reps," she says. "I know it from beginning to end".
I found talking with her made me excited about Zeta. It is a wonderful thing to see folks who are that passionate about their job. I think it shows up in their brew.
So if you are looking for a cool drink or a bite to eat, after spending the day at the beach, consider stopping in at Zeta. Its right there, a block from the ocean.
BREWS TO TRY:
Since we are at Zeta, Here's a few to try. The Maggie P Saison ABV 5.4%, is tart and a bit funky, but not so much as to make you pucker. It was hot and perfectly hit the spot. If you aren't sure, ask for a taste.
Twin Finn Lager ABV 5.1% was Ed's first beer, he is a big Lager fan, so he liked this one tremendously. It was characteristic of a Lager, perhaps a bit more robust than standard, but drinkable on a hot day.
The Beer that brought us in, Ruby Beach Wheat ABV 4.9%. This is a tart, refreshing beer, a bit hoppier than the usual wheats, however it offsets the sweet of the raspberry. Taylor told us during Brunch, they do all you can drink Beermosas made with Ruby Beach and OJ. Plan to try that at Brunch one day!
Smoked Cherrywood Porter ABV 6% This is a special treatment of their Porter. Taylor told us they do not do small batch brews or one offs, instead they do treatments of their standard beer. In this case the malts were smoked using Cherrywood. I found it smooth and a touch sweet, the smoke did not overwhelm the flavor of the porter. Sometimes Smoked Porters taste like a campfire, this did not.
EVENTS and REMINDERS: It's busy in Beerland on the First Coast
Every Friday, The Silver Cow in Riverside is holding Fridays at Silver Cow, From 4:30pm - 7pm on Fridays, it is all you can eat and drink for $25. Including Craft Beer and they have a great selection. The food is Charcuterie, Fromage and Hor d'oeuvres.
Friday July 29, Brewz is hosting another FREE slider night, Two gourmet sliders made to pair with 2 beers on tap. Buy a beer and you get the sliders.
Saturday July 30 Wicked Barley's Grand Opening. Starting at 11 am, the tap room and restaurant are open, sans Wicked Barley beer until the permitting is finalized. They will have local guest taps and their full menu, come by car or water.
Monday August 1 Craft Beer 101: The Basics Alewife in Five Points. An great opportunity to learn about all the beer styles and what goes into making them. Cost is $20 and tickets can be purchased here. Alewife is also doing a Watermelon Gose throw down on Wednesday August 2, Terrapin vs Anderson Valley. If you want to try some sours.
Find something you'd like to share? Have an event you'd like to promote? Email me. Tag your finds on Facebook and Twitter #FirstCoastBrews. I'm updating events and other news using that hashtag, so take a look as well. Want to know what I drink? Find me on Untappd.