“Know Your Rights” is a semi-regular column featuring profiles of and conversations with local surfers whose love for the ocean fuels his or her passions, in turn inspiring a deeper connection to the Northeast Florida community and making the RIGHT coast the BEST coast on which to live.
Jax Beach Brewery Green Room’s owner and head brewer Eric Luman’s love of surfing predates his love of brewing. Though he’d eventually fall hard for the fermenting process while studying biology at UNF, Luman was — years earlier — smitten with a well-yellowed, Whisnant thruster he’d acquired from the racks of the famed Hart’s Surf Shop in Jacksonville Beach.
Today, you’re as likely to see Luman dawn-patrolling at the Poles atop a variety of surf craft (from Involvement era logs to retro single-fins) as you are to catch a glimpse of him checking in on the various fermentation tanks in the back of Green Room Brewing’s 3rd Street brewery and taproom.
Prior to opening Green Room, Luman spent the previous decade brewing commercially for Southend Brewery in Charleston and Seven Bridges in Jacksonville. When Luman opened up shop in 2011 with partner Mark Stillman, the craft beer boom, which was by then sweeping through big cities across the U.S., was still in its early throes in Northeast Florida.
“By the time we opened Green Room, I had been brewing for about 10 years and really just wanted to do something on my own,” Luman remembered. “Most of the breweries in Jax were corporately owned and locked into a very narrow brewing mentality. I wanted a place where I could experiment with new ideas and basically brew whatever looked fun and fresh at the time.”
In hindsight, the timing of Luman’s decision to scratch his entrepreneurial itch certainly seems fortuitous. As the popularity of craft beer shows few signs of waning, and breweries proliferate across the region, Green Room remains ever-popular as a cornerstone of Northeast Florida’s local brew foundation.
And, as if Luman wasn’t busy enough, he and wife Vanessa recently began renovations on a Mayport/Atlantic Beach brewery and taproom called Reve Brewing.
“I really think the Mayport area is blowing up and a lot of cool people are moving into that area,” Luman said. “It will be fun to bring a local beer into that mix.”
With Luman’s plate so full, we weren’t sure we’d be able to catch him in the water anytime soon. So we jumped at the opportunity to ask him about his twin passions (surfing and brewing) and how one might inform the other.
How’d you become interested in craft beer/brewing?
I’ve always loved good beer, even in my college days, although there weren’t many options outside of imports, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams. While in college [studying] for biology, I started bartending at a brewpub and was intrigued by the brewing aspect. I started helping out in the brewery and eventually the head brewer left, and I took over for him.
Did the initial response to Green Room surprise you?
We have seen nothing but an overwhelmingly positive response since we opened the doors. Our customers have been amazing and have supported us since day one. While I had faith this was a good idea, I was blown away by how quickly the local community embraced us.
Let’s talk about this new venture, Reve, right? Why did you want to start another brewery?
The name is a mashup of my kids names, and also means “to dream” in French. In order to continue the evolution of the beers I want to brew, I felt it was time to create a whole different experience than Green Room. This is going to be a much smaller operation that focuses on niche beers with a clear focus on who and what we are. Everything from the beers to the labels to the aesthetics of the taproom are highly thought out and try to convey a singular path.
What’s unique about the surf culture in Northeast Florida?
What I love about the local surf culture is that it seems like a small community. I see the same faces out in the water almost everyday and almost everyone is having a good time. We’ve got a pretty good variety of different breaks for Florida, and no matter what the conditions, you can usually find a bump or some wind protection.
You and your crew of friends can often be seen riding all manner of alternative craft at spots around Northeast Florida. How did you get into offbeat or vintage surf craft? Are you inspired by other surfers (local or otherwise)?
I had a friend in high school with an old Challenger single-fin that I just loved to ride. We have so may days here under chest-high that those mid-length single-fins are just a blast to ride when I would normally struggle on a thruster. Longboards, single-fins and fishes give me the ability to really increase the amount of time I spend in the water here. I can have as much fun noseriding on a 2-foot day as I can on a nor’easter.
My favorite local surfer is [Justin] Quintal. It’s amazing to see someone local crushing it. Outside of Northeast Florida surfers, I love to watch Harrison Roach. He can barrel ride better than most, but also is super style-y on an LB.
Do you see parallels between brewing beer and surfing? Certainly you’re passionate about both, but are there common threads between these two pursuits?
I enjoy the hell out of both of them and there is nothing better than a cold one after a long session.