If there’s one thing I love, it’s history. I’ve always been a sucker for anything historical, sometimes to the chagrin of my beautiful wife.
Living in Florida and being a history buff, it’s pretty much a requirement to visit St. Augustine on a regular basis. There’s so much to see and do, and it’s close enough to Jacksonville to get some really great beers.
That being said, there wasn’t a ton of beer being brewed in the oldest city in the US. Sure, there’s a brewpub downtown, but no big-scale brewing. The first brewery to really take up that mantle and run with it (across state lines, too) is Ancient City Brewing, opened in 2015.
Ancient City is in a warehouse area just north of the city and right off I-95. Some locals will readily recognize their home as the former home of the ill-fated Mile Marker Brewing, of whom I hear nothing but disdainful comments and murmurs in hushed tones. Even Ancient City’s brewmaster, Vance Joy, was a principal partner in that brewery.
That is where the similarities end. Owners/Co-founders Greg and Dylan were quick to distance themselves from that particular spectre, and all of Ancient City’s recipes are original to them. No repeats here.
Entering the facility is nice and homey, with rich wood surrounding the bar, and gorgeous tap handles that call upon the cannons from the city’s beloved Castillo de San Marco. Behind the bar was Ben Davenport, tap room manager and he of the awesome beer beard. It was on his invitation that I came with my lovely wife and daughter one cold afternoon.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see the brewing facility, since 1) Ben was on his own that day and 2) There was a giant tarp of Dr. Emmett L. Brown to block the brewing equipment off from the rather frigid winds that day. Seriously, it was cold.
So, other than getting some great merch of their really awesome logo, here’s what my wife and I sampled that day:
Castillo Coconut Porter (Porter, 6.8% ABV, 22 IBU) – My wife really loves porters (I do as well), so I made sure we got one of these. The coconut flavor is light, with Ancient city forgoing the use of coconut flavoring or roasted coconut for pounds and pounds of freshly shaved coconut instead. That light coconut note gives way to the rich, heavy malts instead. Great for fans of a deep, molasses and coffee flavor.
Pecan Nut Brown Ale (Brown Ale, 6.8% ABV, 22 IBU) – Yes, I know it’s not really brown. They know as well. It doesn’t matter one bit, since this one of the better brown ales I’ve had. Rich with heavy bready flavors that are accentuated with a delicious nut meatiness. Fantastic.
And my flight, from left to right:
Galleon’s Golden Ale (Blonde Ale, 4.8% ABV, 16 IBU) – It’s a good, solid golden ale, with a touch more crystal malt sweetness than many blonde ales allow.
Ponce’s Pale Ale (Pale Ale, 5.2% ABV, 38 IBU) – Yes, pretty much everyone in the city knows Ponce de Leon. It’s required for any elementary Florida classroom. It’s sort of like how the pale ale is for a brewery, and this pale is a great example of the style. Hops are noticeable and citric, but kept respectfully moderate.
Augustine’s Orange Amber Ale (Amber Ale, 5.3% ABV, 25 IBU) – Interestingly enough, this beer felt a bit hoppier than the pale ale. With a good, liberal dose of orange sweetness and a slight citric tang, it still makes for a refreshing brew.
Port Barrel-Aged Red Ale (Red Ale, 6.8% ABV, 25 IBU) – This beer. This one right here is why I consider Ancient City the big boy of St. Augustine brewing right now. This is their Matanzas Red Ale, sweet and malty, but aged in San Sebastian port wine barrels. It’s has such a great, deep wine flavor to combine with all that malty goodness, it’s just fantastic. Really, really good.
Basically, they’ve got some fantastic brews on their hands. And it doesn’t take much to find them, since their distribution is starting to ramp up around the region. I will easily and happily return to them, and encourage anyone visitng St. Augustine to do the same. It’s easy; they’re so close to all that history.
And who doesn’t love history?
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