Searching for the Big Chill in Local Taprooms

Get a delightful respite from the summer sweat at craft breweries


By now, your air conditioner has had a healthy workout altering the heat and humidity drenching Northeast Florida. While some revel in the sticky sizzle, others scramble toward any place with the AC less than 75°F and refreshing lighter brews on tap. Fortunately, a slew of area breweries keep their taprooms cool and their beer cold.

For several years, Bold City Brewery has released Big John's Apricot Wheat Ale at summer's start; owners Brian and Susan Miller honored the family patriarch John with this signature brew. Big John's pours a cloudy light gold, sending out aromas of bready wheat, light vanilla and a hint of apricot in a subtle, not-too-sweet ale perfect for hot weather quaffing. Order a pint at Bold City's original taproom, a cool, dark hideaway on Rosselle Street in Riverside or at the Downtown taproom on East Bay Street.

Southern Swells Brewing Co. in Jax Beach is making a name for itself with spot-on Northeast-style hazy IPAs, as well as a German-style Berliner weisse. Not The Gumdrop Buttons, a sly reference to a popular animated movie, is refermented on blueberries and raspberries for a fruity, sour punch. Served in a laid-back, beachy taproom, this beer will cool you after a day on the blazing sands.

Tucked among a nondescript group of office/warehouse buildings between Southside Boulevard and I-95 on Western Way, Veterans United Craft Brewery has been pumping out delicious brews for five years. Among its many excellent libations is Buzzin' Bee Honey Rye Wheat Ale. This Best of Florida Beer Championship bronze medal-winner has a light mouthfeel that belies its hefty 6.3 percent ABV. It'll remind you of a hot hazy afternoon listening to busy bees buzzing as they glean nectar for honey. Clear and golden, the VUCB taproom favorite has a tang and tinge of honey and sweet citrus.

What could be cooler literally than drinking in an old railroad icehouse? At Aardwolf Brewing Company, you can do just that as you enjoy one of a profusion of outstanding drafts. A perfect brew to sip is its version of German pilsner, Hallertauer Adalwolf. Brewed with Hallertauer hops—originally from Germany, one of four "noble" hops—it's crisp, light and satisfying. As a summertime quencher, it definitely delights.

Just a couple blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic Beach Brewing Company is among the newer neighbors in North Beaches Shopping Center, between a nail salon and a gift shop. Its cool taproom offers beach-dwellers and townies alike a welcome respite from the blaze outside. Atlantic Beach Lager is the brewery's go-to hot-weather tipple. A traditional, German-style Helles Lager, it's similar to a pilsner, but Helles lagers are slightly sweeter. Brewed with Pilsen malt and spiced with noble hops, this malt-forward beer goes down smooth, with a crisp, dry finish.

The heat and, face it, the humidity are on the rise, but take heart, thirsty friends—you can always find a cool local place serving icy-cold beers. Now, if I could just get my car's AC working, I'd get there a little less sweaty.

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