Occupying a warehouse on the other side of U.S. 301, just east of the railroad tracks, JDub's Brewing Co. and its adjacent taproom remind me of my favorite band rehearsal spaces. But, you know, with far superior beer, roomier with nicer posters on the walls, no instruments or cables or cigarette butts covering the floor, better music pumping through the speakers at a much more tolerable volume, and even a backyard area for lawn games like corn hole. I had been impressed by JDub's beers before. But it takes a recent visit to the taproom to fully appreciate the city of Sarasota's first production craft beer brewery.
I spend some quality time this past Friday with JDub's founder Jeremy Joerger. It's like interviewing the lead singer of a band whose music really moves me. We talk for nearly two hours about everything from how he got the nickname “JDub” (a long, humorous story starting with his initials “J.J.”) to what he has been drinking lately when taking a break from beer (Bulleit rye whiskey). Of course, we talk about beer, too. Lots of beer talk.
Since opening in February, JDub's Brewing Co. has established itself as one of the top production craft breweries in a region rich in craft beer breweries. Best known for its Up Top! IPA, which is also available in cans, Joerger and his head brewer Tom Harris have created a bevy of distinctive, tasty brews. Tippling from four-ounce glasses during my recent visit, I taste most of the beer JDub's has crafted for public consumption and even a couple not yet available.
“I’m nothing but a glorified craft beer enthusiast,” Joerger says. “I’m a home brewer but if I made beer you wouldn’t want to drink it.”
Enter Harris. Joerger was impressed by his resume, sure. Harris spent five years brewing at Long Trail in Vermont, a regional brewery that produced 90,000 barrels a year. But Joerger didn’t know he had his main man until they did a Skype interview. Joerger asked his prospective brewer what he would do if he showed up with a truckload of watermelons. Harris answered it would be a “good challenge” to create a beer from the melon. It’s that adventurous spirit that makes Joerger and Harris purveyors of such first-rate liquids as Esperanza.
I’ll admit, the whole time I'm interviewing Joerger, which feels more like a conversation, for me at least; I crave a sip of Esperanza. See, I’m a big fan of JDub’s Guid Mornin’ wee heavy, aka Scottish ale, which I wrote about last month during my Bar Tab session at Shakespeare’s English Pub. Esperanza is basically a supreme version of JDub’s wee heavy, aged in the same oak barrels that caressed the award-winning Siesta Key spiced rum by Drum Circle Distilling (2212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota). I’m not sure how I score a four-ounce sample, but Joerger brings me a glass. One whiff, one sip, one moment later and I feel like I have just been handed a chalice filled with an elixir of eternal life.
“You know,” Joerger says with a grin, “not too many people have had that.”
Esperanza, named after one of Hernando de Soto’s boats, will be sold in 750 ml bottles for a very reasonable $20. But there will only be 250 bottles available. The release date will be in the next few weeks. The news will be posted here ASAP. Well, as soon as I’ve secured myself a couple bottles.
“I think that it’s nothing short of incredible,” Joerger says, his only boast, if you want to call it that, during our entire talk.
He's speaking of the Esperanza. The same could be said for just about all of JDub’s beers. The Sarasota brewery has yet to reach the status of, say, Cigar City in Tampa, but give them some more time to rehearse. JDub’s could very well be the next rock star in the highly competitive world of craft beer. For now, its taproom by the railroad tracks east of 301 is a helluva place to hangout.
JDub's Brewing Co.
1215 Mango Ave., Sarasota; 955-2739; jdubsbrewing.com
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