As one of the world’s largest beer brewers, this Jacksonville outpost of Anheuser Busch is surprisingly open about its process. The looming facility offers free tours on how they brew and package Budweiser, with guests catching glimpses of the state-of-the-art technology, giant tanks, carefully controlled temperature rooms and bottling and packaging facilities, all of which can be seen through glass viewing windows. There’s also information on the recycling program, energy recovery and conservation of wildlife in the surrounding Jacksonville wetlands. After the tour, stop in the hospitality room and sample some beer. For the truly curious, the more in-depth Beermaster Tour is for true connoisseurs and a one-off Beer School class introduces patrons to different beer styles, proper pouring and a variety of craft beer and food pairings. There’s also a gift shop on hand, and occasional events take place on the property.
Mile Marker Brewing's beermasters swirl hops and yeast into towering kettles within the sprawing St. Augustine brewery. Inside the on-site tap room, barkeeps pour 5.5-ounce samples of Mile Marker's three signature brews straight from the barrel (a $5 value), each of which is named for the coordinates of bars frequented by Hemingway's beard. Mile Marker 1565, a nutty Irish red ale with hints of caramel, offsets the light, citrusy flavors of Mile Marker Zero, a German summertime ale. Centennial and Sterling hops lend subtle bitterness to the IPA Mile Marker 82's floral flavors. After selecting a favorite beer from the flight, patrons can follow up with a full pint (up to a $5 value) and bask in the tap room's cool blue light, which illuminates retro console video games, dartboards, and an elevated fish tank. Mile Marker Brewing also leads free tours through the brewery itself, where large steel and copper kettles slosh with foaming yeast and piquant hops as master brewers stir, read bedtime stories to, and generally supervise each effervescent batch.
Traveling to homes across Illinois, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin with an array of hand-selected bottles in tow, the knowledgable consultants of PRP Wine International save their customers the time they would spend searching stores and the jail time that could result from trespassing on private vineyards. The staffers of this private wine company spend almost every day of the year unearthing the best bottles across the United States, Europe, Australia, South America, and South Africa, and then present their selections to eager palates at homes, private clubs, and hotel suites during private tastings and special events. As the wine spills forth into glasses, the consultants impart background information on the wines, share pairing ideas, and encourage guests to ask any questions they might be embarrassed to ask at restaurants, such as, “How do you pronounce pinot noir?” or “Where is the giant laser that transforms the grapes into wine?” As the evening progresses, conversations will also cover grape varieties and facts about specific growing regions.
In Green Room Brewing’s tap room, servers pour out eight beers from other Florida breweries but it’s the microbrewery’s own pints that make it truly special. Visitors to the tap room can admire the steel fermenters, wooden barrels, and other brewing equipment as they sip one of several rotating specialty brews, such as a barrel-aged beer or a belgian. Two options stay on the menu year-round: an American-style High Head IPA with a citrus aroma and plenty of hops and the light crisp Diamond Belgian Wit, a traditional Belgian ale brewed with coriander.
But the brewery isn’t just about filling pints and growlers. Local artwork adorns the tap room’s sky-blue walls, and the brewery hosts live music performances, visits from other microbreweries, and regular Jenga competitions that help create a lively spirit of community, like the mandatory team-building exercises supervised by leprechauns each St. Patrick’s Day.
Mardi Gras Jax celebrates Mardi Gras with a themed pub crawl across eight bars and restaurants, recreating the Bourbon Street experience without the hassle of cramming an entire parade float into an overhead compartment. A ticket earns proto-revelers a wristband for admission that yields discount drink specials, automatic entry into numerous prize drawings, and a handy way to differentiate between right and left. A souvenir drink glass and beads decorate participants like a belt over a boxer's shoulder, and scavenger-hunt maps and cards give clues that will lead an industrious partier to the mysterious grand prize. The after-party, hosted by Bo's Coral Reef, serves drinks until 2 a.m. and features the crowning of a king and queen of Mardi Gras Jax—fledgling potentates gain a hefty reward for their newfound royalty and an ethanol-fueled crowning ceremony to make it official––and the costume contest rewards eccentrically outfitted participants. The grand prize of the evening is a cruise for two from Budweiser, perfect for a happy couple, bonding siblings, or a probation officer and ward.
North Beach Bistro is more than a restaurant—it's a legacy. The upscale eatery was the vision of renowned chef Tony Pels, who trained with culinary giants such as Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard, and chef David Seavey, whom Pels mentored for 15 years at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Pels passed away only two months before the restaurant's opening in June of 2008, leaving executive chef Seavey to carry on his tradition of culinary creativity and generosity.
Spurred on by this responsibility, Seavey combines the freshest ingredients with a genuine love for his fellow Floridians. The Jacksonville native crafts hearty and flavorful surf 'n' turf entrees such as the bistro bouillabaisse with Mayport shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish or chargrilled Black Angus filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms and port wine sauce. Reddish-gold fixtures in the bar emanate light that's as warm and welcoming as the chef himself. DJs and live music keep the space vibrant, and the dining room's wood floors and spot-lit art give it an air of sophistication. Weekly trivia nights arm guests with knowledge that makes an ideal conversation starter or helps pass the time while stuck in an elevator with Ken Jennings.