By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News
An aardwolf will soon be residing in San Marco. Not the small, insectivorous hyena native to Africa whose name means, “earth wolf.” Rather, this one will be more closely associated with hops, grains and great craft beer in the form of Aardwolf Brewery, which has been in development for over a year at 1461 Hendricks Ave.
Co-owners/operators Michael Payne and Preben Olsen hope to open their taproom in late February, with their recently installed 15-barrel (465 gallon) brewery system up and running once the required permits come through, which may be as early as March or April. The taproom will debut with unique craft and imported beers as well as offerings from established local breweries, including Riverside’s Bold City Brewing Company and Intuition Ale Works. They will then add their own signature brews to what will ultimately be 20 taps. “It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like we’re ready to go,” said Payne, previously brewmaster at Brewer’s Pizza in Mandarin. “The changes in the building – outside, but especially inside – have been drastic. People won’t recognize it as the same place.”
Built in 1927 as an ice plant for South Jacksonville Utilities Company and later housing the Moyer Marble & Tile Company from 1954 to the early 2000s, Aardwolf will be 11,000 square feet with 2,000 of that taproom and other adjoining rooms with a capacity of 150 people. There is a 40-space parking lot, which Olsen said could be shared with other area businesses. Build-out costs exceeded $300,000.
“It fits in great with the neighborhood and I’m excited that we’re opening when the entire area is undergoing a revitalization,” Payne said. “With us, and then San Marco Station and others coming soon, the whole stretch [along Hendricks] will look different in just a year or two. I think it will be really positive for the neighborhood.”
Bob Warren, Public Relations Chairman for San Marco Preservation Society, agreed.
“Entering one of the best markets in Jacksonville for eateries and watering holes, Aardwolf Brewery should do well in San Marco. We look forward to their opening and expect they will also have a positive impact on other retailers in the area,” Warren said.
Jacksonville’s burgeoning craft beer community has also embraced Aardwolf.
“We’ve been working on some collaborative brews with Intuition, Green Room and Pinglehead [Brewer’s Pizza] for limited, special releases,” said Olsen, an Avondale resident who until recently was the beer buyer for Riverside’s Grassroots Natural Market. “We couldn’t have asked for a better reception from the city, the neighborhood and the brewing community.”
Aardwolf will join local brewers and craft beer oriented bars, such as Riverside’s Kickbacks Gastro Pub, as part of the Ratebeer Winter Gathering, which will be held Feb. 21-24. Ratebeer is a website dedicated to rating and sharing information about beer, which holds its annual event in different beer friendly cities throughout the country.
The occasion will be the perfect way to christen Aardwolf’s taproom and introduce the brewery to the city.
“I have butterflies, to be sure. We’re really excited to join Jacksonville’s craft beer community and bring great beer to San Marco,” Olsen said.