Several new area breweries are coming on board during the last few months of 2018. Say Hello to SJ Brewing Company, the first brewery to open in Yulee, just north of Jacksonville.
The area’s newest brewery opened its tap room on Saturday, August 4. Although it is currently serving guest beers from local and regional breweries on its twelve taps, look for house beers to start appearing soon. The bar also offers wines and sodas. The venue offers indoor and outdoor seating. Inside, the tap room features a bar on one side, plenty of space to move around, and ample seating at tables and chairs. Guests can watch two TVs or play an assortment of table and board games. The brewhouse sits in the back, on the other side of a half wall. Outside is a deck with umbrellas for enjoying beer in the sunshine and breezes.
Artwork on the tap room wall features the labels of the new brewery’s upcoming five core beers: Yulee Pale Ale, Bunny Brown Ale, I Gose With You, Stop Jonesing IPA, and Battle Plan Imperial Stout.
Yes, there’s an “S” and a “J” behind the brewery and, also working behind the bar. Get to know Shaun and JoAnn Stewart, the husband and wife team brewing up the area’s newest beers, in this Q-and-A interview.
We know that the “SJ” refers to Shaun and JoAnn. How did you get started in brewing beer?
Says JoAnn: Shaun started brewing when I bought him a Mr. Beer kit, after we started dating in 2011. Shaun quickly became hooked and has upgraded since then.
Shaun has lived in Yulee since 2007, and after they were married, JoAnn joined him there. According to JoAnn: We were spending time driving to Jacksonville for brewery visits, and we decided to bring the brewery experience to the Yulee area.
What made you decide to open a brewery? How long has the brewery concept been in the works?
We regularly meet up with family and/or friends to play games, eat dinner, and drink craft beer. There hasn’t been anything like that in Nassau county – until we opened! With “prior life” backgrounds in the pressure washing business and the mortgage industry, we were both ready for a change. We joke with that we decided to have our mid-life crisis together.
What’s the size of the overall venue, and how large is the tap room?
We can seat 75 people including 16 seats outside. Our space is about 2200sf, with about a third dedicated to the tap room.
What kind of atmosphere do you want to create with SJ Brewing?
We want to be a friendly neighborhood hangout. We are family and pet friendly. We want people to be able to bring their meal, bring a game, or play one of ours, and enjoy some good cold beers. We envision a place like an old Cheers episode.
The buildout phase of your tap room seems to have happened pretty quickly. What was the timing like?
We started the process in March 2017, and first worked with the county to change an ordinance to allow the brewery in Nassau County. That part lasted until November. In the meantime, we were able to narrow down our possibility of locations. We chose where we are because of the easy access to food, and the area is growing quickly. We are also very close to home. We signed our lease on April 1, and had already worked on getting plans and contractor bids in place. Towers Construction completed the buildout by the first week in July, and we couldn’t be happier with their work. We then had the rest of the month to do the rest!
Let’s talk about where the beer is brewed: what’s the size of your brewhouse?
We have a five -barrel brew system, with four five-barrel fermenters right now — space for up to two more. For the time being, we are only doing taproom sales, but we may expand to some distribution locally in the future.
Your tap room features artwork of your five core beers. Generally, what types of beers will you offer?
JoAnn is a stout/ porter drinker and Shaun gravitates towards Pale Ales and IPAs. Since we are the first brewery in the immediate area, we also want to make sure we have options for customers new to the craft beer scene, such as saisons and wit beers. We will try to keep a variety of beers on tap.
You opened your tap room on August 4 – what was that experience like – seeing your planning turn into reality. What’s been the reaction of the community?
It was an exciting day. The local community has been very welcoming, and many people have already come back. We could not be happier!
Will you continue to offer guest taps in the future, or do you see having all house-beers on tap one day?
We’re still working on that. We will probably keep a tap for guest beers to introduce new styles or to fill in any blanks for times when we may not have one of our own styles available.
And, the question on everyone’s minds: When do you anticipate brewing your own beers and tapping them? Any idea which ones will appear first?
Our brewhouse plumbing was finished the week after we opened, and we are looking to get our first beer in the tanks as soon as possible. Our first house beer will be our Pale Ale, which we anticipate tapping over Labor Day weekend.
Congratulations to SJ Brewing! SJ Brewing is located at 463646 State Rd. 200, Suite 13, Yulee. Tap room hours are currently Tuesday-Friday, 3-10pm; and noon-10pm Saturday and Sunday; closed on Monday.
Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®
(photos by Linda Johnson)
Linda Johnson is a BUZZ Contributing Writer (beer!) and founder of the beer and travel website, BrewNymph.com, covering all things Florida beer from news to events. She is the first female Level 2 Certified Cicerone® in the Jax area (since 2015), one of seven in the metro area, and the only Level 2-certified independent beer writer in the state.