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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Old Coast Ales: Riding Into St. Augustine on a Bicycle Built for Brew

[Ed. Note: I am thrilled to have been the first writer and site to publish a preview story about Old Coast Ales.  The new brewery held a soft opening on January 30,2017, and will open to the public on Wednesday, February 1, 2017.]

The wheels are in motion for Florida's newest brewery to open during Nights of Lights in the nation's Oldest City. Inspired by the St. Augustine community and a passion for brewing locally-made beer, Old Coast Ales is gearing up for an opening date by the end of 2016. 

Co-owners Jon Boisclair and Matt Hooker have been seen around town sporting "Old Coast Ales" shirts and hats for over two years, as they worked their way through the arduous task of finding a property and building a brewery. There's now a light at the end of part one of their adventure, and the two are eagerly anticipating the next phase: sharing their handcrafted beers with the public in their brewery and tap room at 300 Anastasia Blvd., near the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine. 


Yes, really: On the way soon......
Jon and Matt started the project about three years ago. They have been homebrewing for around 4 years, and converted Matt's garage into a homebrewing headquarters. They knew that they wanted to have their brewery call St. Augustine home and set out looking for properties. In the meantime, they were tweaking and experimenting with beer recipes on their half-barrel homebrew system (yes, that means that they were drinking it, too: you have to test the brew), and they currently have 16 different styles of beer in their lineup. 

In May 2015, they decided to set up shop at a former auto garage property, which the property owner intended to refurbish. I happened to be sipping on a beer at The Kookaburra coffee shop when an excited Matt stopped in with lease in hand.


The "before":
The former garage at 300 Anastasia Blvd. circa May 2015
(photo by Old Coast Ales)
Shortly afterwards, a wooden fence went up around the property as construction and renovations took place. Since then -- behind the scenes -- concrete was poured, floor drains installed, floors raised, gas lines installed, and a new facility was born. And, check out how it looks now:


The "after": The brewery and tap room sits on the right half;
tenants for the left half are still in the works
(photos by Linda Johnson)


 
The main entrance to Old Coast Ales tap room.


Outdoor patio, under roof. Won't this be an awesome spot
for people watching along Anastasia Blvd.?
The new brewhouse features a seven-barrel brewing system, consisting of a mash tun, brew kettle, two seven-barrel fermenters, and a seven-barrel brite tank. Old Coast Ales obtained the new, hand-built mash tun and brew kettle from Bennett Forgeworks in Ridgway, Colorado. Matt and Jon brought the tanks back from Deutsche in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this year. The brewhouse is set up for approximately 500-700 barrels of beer per year, and there is space for additional fermenters. According to Jon, scaling up on the larger brewing system has been challenging in terms of timing and quantity of ingredients, but those are things that get worked out. Spent grain from the brewing process finds its way to a local farm for use as feed. 

I visited with Jon and Matt at the still-under-construction-but-oh-so-getting-there brewery last week. Jon was building out the bar as we spoke, and later that night, had completed the framing. The space occupies roughly 1900 square feet, comprised of the brewhouse, bar area, and a lounge/game/brewery activity area. Plus, there's a pretty cool covered outdoor patio space accessible from the lounge area, which overlooks Anastasia Blvd. The tap room might be described as "industrial rustic," with hanging bronzed light fixtures and a cypress ceiling. Jon and Matt work in the trades (Jon in HVAC and Matt in painting), and they put the inside together themselves -- from the 150sf walk-in cooler, insulated with concrete and styrofoam, to the bar area. Take a look:


Brand new brewhouse! (photos by Linda Johnson)
Fermenters and brite tank ...
By the way: Yes, there's beer in there!
Industrial meets rustic:
cypress ceiling, hanging lights in tap room

The tap room will feature 12 taps at the end of the bar pouring beer directly from the walk-in cooler. Old Coast Ales will have its own house beers on tap when it opens for business. (They're just a bit busy right now.) And, yes, the fermenters are already full of beer -- a brown ale and a session IPA -- just waiting to be kegged and stored in that cooler.  The brew schedule has an IPA and Porter being brewed in the upcoming week. The bar will seat around 8-10 guests, with a view of the brewhouse through a glass window. One wall will feature a "leaning bar" with a shelf for holding beer, and the tap room will also include tables. Here's how it's shaping up:


Framing: Bar area just off the main entry. Overhanging lighting.
Room with a brewhouse view through the large window.

(photos by Old Coast Ales)


More progress! You're getting thirsty, very thirsty!
So, you're probably asking what kind of beer you can expect from Old Coast Ales. There will be a variety of styles here, with no one particular specialty. The four "main" beers are Empirical IPA, Signal Pale Ale, Port-O-Call Porter, and Boulevard Brown. Other beers you're likely to find in the Old Coast Ales rotation at any given time will be: hefeweizen, summer ale, hoppy brown ale, ESB (Extra Special Bitter), smoked oak strong ale, vanilla milk stout, dark rye, golden Belgian ale, Double IPA, saison, Brett (brettanomyces) saison, and a West-Coast style IPA. ABV's generally range from 5 - 8.5. There's a beer for everyone! While Old Coast Ales has limited local distribution in the long-range plan, in Year 2 or 3, for now, the focus is to continue to brew high-quality beer for the community-inspired tap room. They'll continue to tweak recipes as they go forward, along with creating additional new beers. 

If the Porter is any indication, Old Coast Ales is on track. I was able to try the Porter as part of a local fundraiser last week, and it's solid: roasty, chocolaty, with a hint of caramel, slightly bittersweet, with no overpowering flavors; a well-balanced brew that, I think is safe to say, will be a favorite for many.

Old Coast Ales Porter: Looking forward to more of this one!
(photo by Linda Johnson)
But, let's change gears, so to speak -- what about that bike? Yes, it really does exist. The bike, known as "The Alcohauler," is a functioning bike, inspired by a 1930's Dutch beer delivery bike. Jon's brother, Josh, a bike-builder, built the bike some years ago for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Josh's bike business, Empirical Cycles, is also the inspiration for the brewery's Empirical IPA. The Old Coast Ales theme of neighborhood and community is built around the bike, which will be on display at the brewery, as well as local events. 

The Old Coast Ales signature bike: "The Alcohauler"
(photo from Old Coast Ales)
Old Coast Ales has its brewery licenses in place, and once the tap room build-out is complete, and the beer kegs are full, it will be ready to start serving its beers to St. Augustine locals and visitors alike. It's been a long road since Jon and Matt started their Kickstarter campaign in September 2014 to raise funds to help purchase brewing equipment (there's even a video of Jon riding the bike). While the partners have been working to do whatever is necessary in launching the brewery, once the dust settles, both will continue to brew, with Jon taking on the main brewer duties, and Matt handling the admin side of things. When asked what they would like their guests to think after a visit to Old Coast Ales, the words "friendly vibe," "fantastic service," "exceptional product," and "great experience" sum it up. 

Old Coast Ales is located at 300 Anastasia Blvd. in a district of St. Augustine becoming more and more known simply as "The Boulevard." Hours will be announced as the opening date approaches, but look for the tap room to be open during the afternoons into the nighttime hours at least 5 days a week. The site also offers 15 parking spaces (are those cheers I hear?), as well as street parking along Anastasia Blvd.

Soon, you'll be able to share some beer and conversation at Old Coast Ales, as part 2 of their ride (the fun part) is just getting started.


Congrats to Old Coast Ales on the new brewery! And, special thanks to Jon and Matt for the site access and putting up with all my questions. See you on opening day!

The Holiday Season is here, and I'll be roaming around downtown St. Augustine and travelling on the trolleys for Nights of Lights again this year. Stop and say Hi! Be sure to check out the events pages on brewnymph.com for local North Florida beer events and additional Florida events. See you around "Florida somewhere!"

Til next time, 

Cheers!


Linda








Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®


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