To say craft beer is a “craze” or “fad” doesn’t really do it the justice it deserves. Craft beer is a massive industry ($22 billion to be exact), and since its slow rise from the dimly lit circles of craft beer advocates to becoming a mainstream part of our society, craft beer is here to stay.
While craft beer had been fighting an uphill battle against industry giants like Anheuser-Busch or people who settled for safe, bland beer, it’s now so prevalent that you can find a craft option at even the most dingy of dive bars.
Despite craft beer being commonplace now, there are still many cities throughout the country that could only find it imported from other states or neighboring cities. For St. Augustine, this was the case (aside from Mile Marker Brewing, which closed in 2014).
Having a local craft brewery where the community can come enjoy a fresh pint in their backyard is something that Jacksonville hasn’t had a problem with for many years now. To give St. Augustine their own, truly hometown brewery, Greg Tuttle and Dylan Rumrell decided to open Ancient City Brewing — the answer to St. Augustine’s lack of craft breweries.
Opened in May of 2015, Ancient City took the old brewing facility from Mile Marker, gutted it and redid essentially everything. Now, the brewery has it’s own taproom in the building and is consistently filled with loyal patrons.
We recently spoke with the crew about their goals for the brewery and its current state, including GM and Sales Manager Shane Haslauer, Taproom Manager Benjamin Davenport, owner Greg Tuttle and Vance Joy, who was the former head brewer at Mile Marker and now does the same for Ancient City.
When the idea to open Ancient City was originally formed, Greg and Vance intended to buy Mile Marker outright, but ultimately decided to start from scratch.
“We decided to start fresh with a new company name, logo, beer recipes and just start over again,” Vance said. “It’s a whole new team here. I’m the last man standing from the old place, and it’s so much better than the way it was before.”
Shane, who was born and raised in Jacksonville and the surrounding areas, said that when they first opened, there was a huge demand for craft beer produced in St. Augustine — something that the residents could feel was their own.
“It took a little while,” Shane said. “But St. Augustine welcomed us with open arms. We’re in 95 percent of all the accounts in town [now]. Being able to be the hometown brewery for the oldest city in the United States is pretty cool.”
The secret to their rapid rise to success is their dedication to crafting solid, drinkable beers that any beer drinker can enjoy and respect — not just the crazy stuff hardcore enthusiasts seek out. Throwing it back to more old-school brewing methods focused on drinkability, Ancient City uses ingredients like six-row barley and ferments at lower temperatures, which Vance said makes their beer more widely appealing.
In addition to their more established brews, Ancient City also has a resource that many other breweries would die for — a plethora of fresh, organic produce thanks to Greg’s wife, who happens to own Watt’s Juicery. By having this partnership, Ancient City can use fresh orange peels and other items from Watt’s cold-pressed juices in their brewing.
Aside from brewing beer people enjoy, the people behind Ancient City seem to place a lot of emphasis on their hometown and being a positive part of shaping their community. Ben said that the brewery works with several organizations year-round from the Matanzas Riverkeeper to Swamp Haven Rescue, The Lighthouse Museum and Joy Moja Jam Fest, run by one of Ancient City’s past employees.
“St. Augustine is a town built on community, we are proud to be over 450 years old, and we didn’t get to where we are now without the help of small businesses working together to support a bigger cause,” Ben said. “Beer is a great anchor to bridging different groups within our community together, and having fundraisers at our brewery has helped many different groups. Community is the root to which we are all connected, and we love being a meeting place for this beloved town of ours.”
If there’s any question as to whether or not these guys are in the craft beer game for the long haul, just take it from the owner.
“This is it for me,” Greg said. “This is the last venture.”
The brewery has plans to finally begin distributing their beers (aside from kegs) this spring after acquiring a canning machine, which will also be a first for St. Augustine, so expect to see some of their staples in a store near you.
With big plans for distribution expansion, new brews and working with other breweries around the area to build up the craft beer scene, the guys behind Ancient City have one goal in mind — to be St. Augustine’s hometown brewery and to make the 904 THE craft beer destination for Florida … and it looks like their dream might just happen, as more and more quality breweries like Ancient City continue to pop up along the First Coast.