Last week, Veterans United Brewery turned two years old and formally celebrated with a party on Saturday. The first local brewing option on the Southside filled up its tap room, located on Western Way off of Baymeadows Road, and even opened up its brewing warehouse with additional taps and cornhole to appease the hordes of craft beer connoisseurs who had an excuse (but do not normally need one) to spend the afternoon, evening or both imbibing in Veterans signature and limited release brews.
I had attempted to go to the tap room once before, on a Tuesday night, only to find it closed. Veterans United operates on the most limited hours of any of the local breweries, but is also one of the most accessible, thanks to their aggressive distribution plan. I have had the Hop Banshee IPA before, at Spark Walk this past spring, and you cannot go into most bars that feature local taps or even Publix without seeing Veterans’ offerings. I wondered how this approach would affect its taproom, but was pleasantly surprised by it.
One main room, with a bar, and a second, much quieter room off to the right of the main entrance allows for more seating than you find at places like Bold City or the old Kings Street locale of Intuition (the new Bay Street location should rectify this problem). Also, opening up the back room meant that there was ample spillover room on a day in which they were obviously expecting large crowds. We arrived in the early evening, and after hanging out in the brewery/warehouse for a while, were able to find a table to consume our second round.
Being a relatively inexperienced Veterans United consumer, I wanted to try a handful. My default brew of choice is usually a pale ale, so I started with the limited release Avenging Angel, which was a very pleasing pale ale, dry, yet not bitter, lacking the pungent aftertaste of many ales. I followed that up with a Naughty Rye, another pale ale that had prominent citrus hints, and was also very tasty. I tried the Scout Dog Amber Ale (not a fan, but I do not like ambers) and the Hedgehog Hefeweizen (which was not as banana-y as many german wheats can be).
The ambience was festive and fun. It was a birthday celebration after all, and the crowd was lively, many partaking in the numerous board games that are available for play, ranging from Cards Against Humanity to checkers. We got our hands on Trouble, an old family favorite, and played a couple of spirited rounds. I love board games, and they are a perfect drinking activity, so any tap room that has a good selection to choose from (and most of the Jacksonville one’s do) gets bonus points in my book.
No food options, but there was a food truck outside and Doorstep Delivery has a partnership where you get a discount if you use Veterans’ promo code, which is a nice perk.
I know that Veterans United Brewery has been focused on distribution to match Intuition and Bold City from its inception two years ago, but I was impressed by the tap room ambience and beer selection. Every local brewery has its own unique flair, and despite the relatively limited hours and tuck away location, Veterans showed that while it is still very much growing in the craft beer scene, it is primed for an even bigger presence in the years to come.
Veterans United’s tap room is open Wednesday-Saturday, and its signature beers (Hop Banshee IPA and Raging Blonde Ale) are readily wherever Champion Brand beers are sold.