For many, a hot summer day and a cold beer go together like thunder and lightning — especially in Florida.
Besides occasional sea foam that washes up along the shore, Fernandina Beach has two brewpub/restaurants serving suds daily in the historic district. For those seeking to sample local brews, check out the following places downtown. Selections of the “First Coast” region’s craft brews can also be found around town.
The Amelia Tavern
Located along Fernandina’s main tourist corridor is the Amelia Tavern (318 Centre Street), 904-310-6088. The Tavern serves in-house brews such as their Tavern Brown Ale and American IPA.
The Amelia Tavern opened last year after lengthy construction project resulted in the birth of a new building. The redesign of the space itself was an impressive transformation at this spot on the sidewalk (after the former O’Kanes Irish Pub closed and had to be demolished).
The Amelia Tavern has an industrial/loft feel featuring high ceilings and sky lights. There are three unique garage-type doors, glass, that roll up opening the front of the Tavern to the Centre Street sidewalk. While sampling a cold one, some may like to try the Tavern’s soft pretzel with cheese dipping sauce (but a full restaurant menu is also available).
A short walk west from the Amelia Tavern on Centre Street toward the riverfront (to the next block’s intersection), then heading north on 3rd, is one of Fernandina’s most popular restaurants, Café Karibo and next door, Karibrew (27 North 3rd Street, 904-277-5269). Karibrew was the first Fernandina establishment to brew beer downtown in contemporary times. They feature weekday drink deals, a half-priced Happy Hour, held Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm.
PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden
SOMETHING NEW: Beer lovers may also wish to check out a new business downtown that opened in time for the summer season 2017, PJD’s Beer and Wine Garden (12 S. 2nd Street), 904-310-9314. Tucked into a cozy spot, this snug outdoor courtyard setting features a variety of craft beers.
“Brewer” & The ClydesdalesMEMORABLE MOMENTS: Pictured above, a fun day in Fernandina when the Budweiser Clydesdales pranced along Centre Street. It was back in 2012 when Fernandina’s most famous bar, The Palace Saloon, sponsored bringing the Budweiser Clydesdales to Amelia Island. Crowds lined downtown’s main corridor to see these special horses. “Brewer,” the Dalmatian, was also a big hit. (Learn about daily Budweiser brewery tours in nearby Jacksonville further below.)
See The Palace
While they don’t do the brewing, do walk through the saloon doors at The Palace for a cold one, and see the interior of this storied pub. Fernandina’s Palace Saloon, is said to be Florida’s oldest continuously-operated drinking establishment, circa 1903.
The Palace Saloon’s centerpiece, a 40-foot bar, was reportedly designed with the help of no other than Adolphus Busch himself (founder of Anheuser-Busch).
Step up to the unique bar at the Palace to see a wonderful relic of another era. The bar includes “hand carved mahogany caryatids (undraped female fixtures.”) Then look up at the embossed ceiling, down at mosaic tile floor, and take note of the painted wall murals. The Palace Saloon is featured on museum walking tours (as well as ghost tours — ask a bartender about “Uncle Charlie”). If you or companions don’t care much for beer, the saloon’s signature rum drink is “Pirate’s Punch.”
Jacksonville’s Budweiser Tours
While not a local “brewpub,” it’s worth noting that one of Budweiser’s breweries is located 30 miles south of Amelia Island. Various Jacksonville Budweiser tours are offered daily to the public (with the exception of some holidays), even “beer school. While the Clydesdales have a very busy nationwide schedule of events, now and then they make an appearance at the Jacksonville brewery.
Scenic Drive To Budweiser
Take the scenic waterfront route to Budweiser from Amelia Island by driving over the southend bridge (Nassau Sound) and follow A1A (Heckscher Drive). From Heckscher, turn onto Busch Drive (address — 111 Busch Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32218, 904-696-8373).
Haunted Brewery Event
Happening in fall at Jacksonville’s Budweiser on Friday and Saturday nights in October 2017, during the “Haunted Brewery” event, zombie paint ball and more attractions will be presented.
American Brewing Boom
There’s been explosive growth of micro breweries and brewpubs across the U.S.A. Consider that back in 1978, the U.S. had 89 breweries compared to more than 5,000 now, according to data from the Brewers Association.
Baby boomers will recall the typical beer brands at bars and inventory on shelves back in the 70s and 80s. Today, the expansive selection along grocery aisles and the variety to ponder barside seems like a tsunami of suds has washed across America.