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FLORIDA AND LOCAL JAX, JAX BEACH, ST. AUGUSTINE, interviews, events, travel

Aardwolf Brewing Early Bird Beer Fest: Springing a Solid Collection in Jax

April 2, 2019: Beer geeks were in a state of "beer nirvana" on Saturday, March 30, as the inaugural Early Bird Beer Fest hosted by Aardwolf Brewing brought a rare collection of breweries from across the Eastern Seaboard to Jacksonville. In a first-of-its-kind event to land in Jax, the event featured over 30 breweries from Vermont to New York to Virginia to North Carolina to Florida. Unless involved in beer trades, locals had not seen the likes of these breweries (and their beer) in the Northeast Florida market -- which was kind of the point.  

While the beer list seemed to lean towards Imperial Stouts and Imperial and Hazy IPAs, the taps also poured barrel-aged beers, sours, and even .... gasp.... lagers! Colors ran the wheel from black and dark to hazy, pink and yellow. 

Named after Aardwolf Brewing's popular Early Bird Imperial Stout (a breakfast stout with vanilla, cinnamon and coffee), which was the base for the first barrel-aged beer produced by the brewery, the fest featured several versions of the highlighted brew, along with a few additional Aardwolf selections. The brewery also held a bottle release inside the tap room. 


Fast forward to event host, Aardwolf Brewing! With a tap list that took two jockey boxes, this was a new one for this site: Almond Creme Brulee Early Bird Special (almond, caramel, coffee, vanilla, and cinnanon). With a taste as advertised! Brewer Kevin was all smiles manning the taps:


Tasted like it sounds! 

The fest offered attendees the chance to sample beers not offered in the Jax market, and the choices were plentiful. With all of the breweries arranged under one extra-large tent, it was easy to follow a circular path and find a new beer! After picking up the fest glass, it was go-time! 







This site had reviewed the beer list ahead of time and set out to start the afternoon off with one of the lighter choices. Opting for a Pilsner from Twisted Trunk Brewing from Palm Beach Gardens, what a nice surprise to find Fran Andrewlevich, owner of both Twisted Trunk and new West Palm brewery Steamhorse Brewing behind the table pouring beers! A handful of Florida breweries were also stationed under the tent, and attendees may not have heard of them, or their beers, before. (Think beertrip!)


Hello, again, Fran! In case you didn't know, he's also
the guy behind Jupiter Craft Brewers Fest in January.

With this unusual list of beers, this fest brought out a number of "beer geeks," including several local Jax brewers and staff seen roaming around the tent. Also attending were a couple of Gainesville guys from the Hogtown Brewers Club (hmmm, that sounds familiar):


With Steve and Graham of Hogtown Brewers Club...
We spent quite a bit of time talking beer and beerfests!

What to try next? It was fun walking around the tent sipping on a beer and looking for the next one:



The Aardwolf crew also provided plenty of (free) water for hydration and palate-cleansing in between stouts and sours:


Nicely done! 
There was even a lounge:


It might have been tongue-in-cheek, but it proved functional;
saw the Main & Six guys hamming it up over here
Back to the beer ... The out-of-state participants included 3 Stars Brewing (DC), Aslin Beer Co. (Virginia), Evil Genius Beer Co. (Pennsylvania), Four Quarters Brewery (Vermont), Equilibrium Brewery (New York), Finback Brewery (New York), Heist Brewery (North Carolina), Sand City Brewing (New York), Magnify Brewing (New Jersey), Southern Grist Brewing (Tennessee), Scofflaw Brewing (Georgia).  Florida breweries included Angry Chair Brewing, 7Venth Sun, Arkane Aleworks, Calusa Brewing, Civil Society, Cigar City Brewing, Cycle Brewing, Garagiste Meadery, Coppertail Brewing, Hidden Springs Ale Works, Infinite Ale Works, Invasive Species Brewing, Grasslands Brewing, Funky Buddha, Intracoastal Brewing, Magnanimous Brewing, Ology Brewing, Proof Brewing, J Wakefield Brewing, MIA Beer Co., Twisted Trunk/Steam Horse Brewing, and Walking Tree Brewery. While Jacksonville local may have heard about, and maybe visited, some of the Florida breweries, these were ones not generally seen on tap or at retail in the area. What a mix! 

In between sampling new beers from Florida and elsewhere, there's always time to catch up with a few breweries from various parts of the Sunshine State:


With Proof Brewing (Tallahassee), and an appearance
by Kevin of Aardwolf. Even Byron, Proof Brewing co-owner,
made it to Jax for this one, along with Bryan.
Co-owner Angela was also spotted.
Alex from J Wakefield Brewing (Miami) made the visit.
Say this one: Otagoffa ... Imperial Stout with
coffee and vanilla (collab with Trillium)


And, these guys: Gabe Grass and crew
from GrassLands Brewing (Tallahassee).
Not sure what was happening here,
but it "got real."
Near the end of the beerfest, some crazy things started happening, as the brewer camaraderie took over the tent, and the decibel level went up. A conga line formed and wound its way through the tent, and an impromptu group photo followed:


Kevin from Aardwolf was swept off his feet
by this crew

And, the afternoon was winding down (video):






Aardwolf Brewing made good on its mission to bring a number of new breweries and new beers to this beerfest under a different concept. Even the Florida breweries in attendance generally offered beers not widely seen previously. Each brewery typically poured two beers, with a few scheduled timed tappings. With the exception of the timed tapping at Arkane Aleworks for a peanut butter and jelly beer, lines were minimal, and there was freedom to move between the brewer tables. All of the beers sampled by this site were new tastings, and it was a tough call with so many choices. With the end of March, weather can be a question mark, and Mother Nature was in a good mood, providing lots of sunshine and dry weather. Other than maybe adding a few more seats and shaded/covered areas, this fest was solid, just like the beer! Aardwolf Brewing intends to offer a second annual Early Bird Beer Fest in 2020, so stay tuned for it!   

Thanks to Aardwolf Brewing for providing a solid line-up of breweries from up and down the Atlantic Coast, and from across Florida, that may have been unknown in the Northeast Florida/Jacksonville area -- until now. Well done! 

Til next time,












Linda
Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®

Escapades, Brews and Running Shoes
www.brewnymph.com


(all photos by Linda Johnson/BrewNymph)


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