Alcohol has been the center of leisure and relaxation for centuries. In fact, the first alcoholic beverage dates back to around 8,500 B.C.E, which is a really long f***ing time ago. As Miranda Lambert so kindly worded it, “I heard Jesus, he drank wine and I bet we’d get along just fine,” and in case you weren’t aware, well Jesus was around a pretty long time ago. There is no doubt that mankind has harnessed the ability to have fun with alcohol and the city of Jacksonville is no different.
We are a drinking town and as outsiders love to remind us, there’s not much else to do here (though we know better). In fact, ShareCare.com ranked Jacksonville in the Top 10 Heavist-Drinking Cities in America for both men and women (men 7th, women 3rd). Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for that one.
But why is Jacksonville drinking all the time? In short, it’s because we are innovative drunkards, and we always find new ways to have a good time.
Way back in 1913, the Bold City was home to one of the most popular regional breweries in the South, the Jacksonville Brewing Company. William Ostner, a German immigrant who moved from St. Louis to Florida, opened the city’s first iconic brewery, even battling through Prohibition. Right around the start of World War II, the brewery was one of the largest employers in the Southeast, producing a crisp pilsner called Jax Beer.
In 1933, when the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” (aka, the Florida-Georgia game) decided to call our city home, Jacksonville truly became known as a drinking town. Not long after that, Anheuser-Busch opened a massive brewing facility here in order to better serve our beer-loving community. Wineries and distilleries in nearby St. Augustine began to pop up and Jacksonville really began to become a breeding ground for alcoholic beverages.
With the turn of the decade in 2010, microbreweries became the focal point of Jacksonville as our booze scene continued to flourish. Intuition Ale Works’ tap room manager, Riley Leuthold, took me on a tour of their facility located in Riverside, something anyone can check out during the week, and they’ll let you sample some fresh brew?
As much as Jacksonville is dedicated to beer, we also have entire bars dedicated to specific types of alcohol. TacoLu has more tequila than ever imaginable and Mojo’s No. 4 in Avondale has a shrine of all types of whiskey.
“The number of people, in Jacksonville especially, looking to try something new and learn something new about the drink they are about to consume has gone way up over the last few years,” said Mojo’s Beverage Director and Investor, John Moore. “It’s all the young people who are excited about new and local drinks.”
It seems that the First Coast also has its fair share of distilleries coming to our area as the craft distilling scene begins to pick up pace.
“Over the last three years, small batch distilleries have been popping up everywhere,” Moore said. “The owners of local distilleries are helping change laws in Florida to let us buy more bottles to help them be even more successful.”
So, the next time you’re out-of-town friends make fun of Jacksonville for being a bunch of drunks, you can tell them that you’re just stimulating the local economy by making every hour a happy hour.