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Brew at the Zoo: A Wild Time in Jacksonville

November 14, 2017: 
The Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens hosted its 11th Annual Brew at the Zoo on Friday night, November 10. As the sun began to set after 5pm, families headed out of the gates after a day touring the zoo's habitat and animal exhibits. Near the same time, a different set of animals (who turned out to be some party animals) started making their way to the Zoo entrance for an evening of beer, spirits, food and music. 

Held each year in the fall, this is one fest that doesn't require much advertising. Tickets went on sale around September 5, and less than 24 hours later, the VIP tickets were sold out, according to JJ Vitale, Public Relations Manager. Ten days later, the general admission tickets were all sold. The 2016 Fest raised over $175,000, according to Brew at the Zoo sponsorship literature. Proceeds from the event benefit the care of the Zoo's 2000+ animals and 1000+ plant species. Each year, the Zoo hosts over 1 million visitors, and reaches over 100,000 local children through its educational programs, free admission and field trips. This is a large Fest, with over 2600 people attending in 2016. 



After having been on the vendor and volunteer sides of the Fest two and three years ago, this writer anticipated Brew at the Zoo from an attendee perspective this year. 

Before the VIP entry at 6pm, staff was still busy assembling souvenir tasting cups and brew maps.

At the fest entry
Then, it was go-time, and the herd of folks waiting behind the ropes made their way through the entry line: 


The fest map showed the way to the samplings of beer, spirits and food. Vendors were stationed in sections of the zoo, each with its own music. Fest areas were accessible from the entry by either taking the zoo train or walking. You knew you were getting close when the music became louder!  


Brew at the Zoo offered over 150 craft and import beers from over 70 breweries, along with ciders, spirits, and wines. Over 50 local restaurants provided food samplings. The fest ticket included food and beverage samplings. Oh, yeah, this would be wild!

Let's start with the food! Food vendors dotted the pathways and each fest section, with just about every type of food imaginable: rice bowls, salads, pork sliders, barbecue, macaroni and cheese, burgers, hot dogs, and more. After first sampling several foods, it was time for a beer!

Main & Six Brewing, at its first beerfest
New Jacksonville brewery Main & Six Brewing was set up for its first beerfest, so might as well make a Staycation Blonde Ale the first beer for the night (history in the making)! Dennis (co-owner) and Ben (Head Brewer) were on hand to let everyone know that the brewery had just opened in Springfield on November 4. Look for them at future beerfests!

A winding walk to the back part of the zoo, the Land of the Tiger, found the guys from Wicked Barley Brewing (Jax) serving several beers and food from the brewpub.  

Wicked Barley Brewing with double duty: beer and food
This section of the fest offered beer outside and inside. The interior of the zoo exhibit featured windows for viewing the outside zoo animals.

Inside at Land of the Tiger
Around the bend, even some of the animals (the four-legged kind) were roaming around. Two baby otters were very entertaining as they chased each other around on land and in the water, but they kept moving around quickly and didn't stop for a photo. 

Warthog keeping watch on things

And, then, there's this kind of animal, seen at the JDub's Brewing (Sarasota) table. One look, and you know that the brewery's Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter is in the house! 

There's no "udder" way to look at it!
The first time I saw this outfit was in Tampa last year.
Several breweries from around Florida and across the country have introduced their beers to the Jacksonville area recently, and several were in attendance at this fest. One of the newest is Fulton Brewing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, which poured four beers -- a great way to try them before they hit the area store shelves. 

New beers to hit the Jax market.
Look for the lager, plus three IPAs.
Time for more walking on the wild side, this time to The Great Lawn area. By this time, things were ... well ... getting wild. 

Looks like they're having a good time

The band played on....



Another brewery at its first fest was Atlantic Beach Brewing Company, which opened just north of Jacksonville Beach in Atlantic Beach in May. Be on the lookout for the brewery's second bottle release coming soon. 

Spencer, Rory and Jess from Atlantic Beach Brewing Company.
Mayport Red Ale in the glass: Needed that pour for the photo, y'know!
It's always a fun crew from Intuition Ale Works (Jax) at beerfests. The brewery poured a few beers from the van, including Underdark and King St. Stout. And, in case you missed it, or are living under one of those rocks in the zoo, Intuition Ale Works celebrates its 7th Anniversary this week! (See "Let's Get a Beer, Florida" video at the top of this site). Cheers and congratulations!

King St. Stout? Sure, why not!
If you made a visit to Pinglehead Brewing's (Orange Park/Jax) PHobia PHest anniversary party over Halloween weekend, you know about the "beers with attitude." That clown in the background was watching!

Pinglehead Brewing crew!
Veterans United Craft Brewery (Jax) had a pretty cool display at their table: 

You guessed it: Buzzin Bee Honey Rye Wheat Ale in the glass!
It was impossible to get the guys at the Aardwolf Brewing (Jax) table to stand still long enough for a photo, so we went with this one: 

Oh, I don't know. Caption this. Lance.....
Then, it was getting close to those infamous two words ... Closing Time. Another trip to the Range of the Jaguar section, this time for beer (the first visit was to sample food and figure out where everything was!)

It's always fun running into crew from Engine 15 Brewing Company (Jax/Jax Beach): 

Who you calling Old Battle Axe? (as in IPA)
Jax brewery Hyperion Brewing Company was having a good time pouring at its first beerfest since opening in the city's Springfield neighborhood in May:


And, last but certainly not least, what's a beerfest (almost anywhere in the state for that matter) without hanging around the Bold City Brewery (Jax) tent? It was another fun time with Regina and Whit! 

I'll see these two at a future beerfest; pretty much a given!
Don't snooze on the 2018 Brew at the Zoo at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. Snap up those tickets right away, or you could miss out on a wild time for a great cause next year!

Brew at the Zoo was a wildly awesome time! I wandered around the entire fest, and still may have missed out on some things. Of course, the fest included Jacksonville breweries, and there were a number of breweries from around Florida and around the country, along with imports. There was something for everyone. 

That's a wrap for this time. Be sure to follow the events pages here on brewnymph.com for upcoming beer events in the greater Jax area, and all over Florida!  See you at another event with a beer .. around Florida Somewhere! 

Cheers,
Til next time, 




Linda




Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®


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