When Luciano “Luch” Scremin and Sean Bielman of Engine 15 Brewing Company, first opened their doors at the Beaches just over ten years ago, they were one of only three craft breweries in Jacksonville at the time. Hard to believe considering the 20+ breweries listed on the Jax Ale Trail website today. Since then, they’ve expanded their operations, opening a larger production brewery in the newly-christened Railyard District near Downtown Jacksonville. We recently caught up with Bielman for a long-overdue chat.
How did Engine 15 get its start and where did the name come from?
Luch and I met in a bar like any good couple. We were both homebrewing at the time and we started homebrewing together. The idea came along between the two of us to start a brewery and we chose the name one day over a couple beers, hemming and hawing about our business plan and we knew that if we didn’t come up with a good name, it didn’t matter how good the beer was, we would be destined to fail. Luch owned this 1962 Ford American LaFrance fire truck that we would use as a tailgate machine, so when his wife Kara heard us talking she said, “Why don’t you name it after that stupid fire truck and get it out of my driveway?” We looked at each other and said, “Engine 15! Why didn’t we think of that?!”
How does the vibe differ between the Beaches and Downtown taproom locations?
Our Beaches taproom is our original location. It’s family-friendly, but it’s more of a pub atmosphere with a Cheers-y, neighborhood bar kind of feeling. We have a little kitchen there and 50 beers on draft. The location on Myrtle Avenue is a production facility, first and foremost. We’re only open Fridays and Saturdays and we’re a little more family-focused in that we have the biergarten and a kids’ play area. Geographically, they’re so far apart they each pull in a different crowd.
How would you describe the kinds of beers you make at Engine 15 to someone who isn’t already familiar with what you do?
Generally speaking, we’re what you might call a “clean” brewery. We make beers that are easy to drink. No matter what we are doing, we try to make them accessible. Not bland or devoid of character, just never extreme because that’s just not our way of doing things. I want something that I want to drink too. We do some barrel-aging and kettle sour stuff here and there, but only on occasion. We’re more focused on traditional styles–the drinkable, quaffable stuff.
What are some of your standby favorite beers people can easily find in the market?
I’ve been able to enjoy J-Ville Lager everywhere from inside the Jags stadium to on my friend’s boat to the backyard. It’s a great Jacksonville, FL beer, not just because of the name but because it’s something you can drink a few without overdoing and it’s crisp, clean, and refreshing. But I’m more of an IPA guy so our Double Drop IPA is probably my go-to. It’s a fun one for the bars. And then there’s the cider. My wife and I find ourselves drinking that a lot, just because it’s always so hot in Florida. That over ice is my go-to in the summer. Very classy!
Which beer are you most excited about right now?
I’m an IPA guy through-and-through. I like the trend of making things less bitter but keeping all the hoppy aroma. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of making a beer hazy just to make it hazy so I’m finding myself having to invent the style. Our Captain A-Hop is the closest we’ve come to what that is so far. It has very little bitterness but has all the fun hops that are hard to get (and expensive) in the dry-hopping portion so you get all those big floral aromas plus the cantaloupe and fruity notes without that cloying bitterness that makes you feel like you can’t taste anything anymore after two or three. It’s sort of our adaptation of a New England-style IPA. It’s hazy but not turbid to the point of being a soup.
This Bold Bevs feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s winter 2020 issue as part of a special sponsored content partnership with North Florida Sales.