Part two of my most recent Florida beer adventure brought me back to my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Having explored most of the breweries close to my side of town, I decided to venture out to another part of town to check out Veterans United, a brewery I have heard lots about since its inception in 2013 but had yet to visit. Founded and staffed almost exclusively by military veterans, they have been growing rapidly and winning lots of rewards for their brews, becoming a large part of the expanding craft beer scene in northeast Florida. Grab a beer and join me on this brewery-tasting deployment.
- Beer – Really solid beers all down their lineup, with something for everyone. The list of year-round beers is limited to mostly lighter ales, with an IPA thrown in there for more of a hop bomb. Where they really shine in terms of variety is the limited release and seasonal offerings, running the gamut from a great oatmeal stout (I had to get a full pint of this one after the tasters) to a couple fruit-based beers. Aside from variety, the fundamentals were sound as well, creating nuanced and layered brews that were perfectly drinkable. Score: 4/5
- Brewery – I’m always more of a fan of the true tasting room style brewery than the brewpub, and Veterans United is exactly that. A modestly sized tasting room with plenty of seating and a small area for music and live performances takes up most of the public’s square footage. A respectably sized bar sits at the back of the room, allowing the bar keeps to survey the room like a drill sergeant inspecting his or her recruits. They do not have a kitchen for food, though there is a rotating stable of food trucks available from time to time (check the schedule on their website as it does not appear to be every day). The prices are reasonable (especially compared to what I’m used to out on the west coast) and they are open Tuesday through Sunday with reasonably late hours for those who like to spend their evening at a brewery. Score: 3.5/5
- Ambiance and Entertainment – I walked in to a stand-up comedy night at VU as part of their Comedy on Tap event, providing me with an evening of laughs I was not expecting but thoroughly enjoyed. On top of that, they have trivia nights, live music, and Texas Hold-em nights. Lots of board games, charity events, new releases, various sporting events on tv, plus a pet friendly tap room round out a balanced and enjoyable tableau of options for how to spend an evening. Score: 4/5
- Location – There is no sugar coating it: VU is hard to find. Tucked in to the very back of a sprawling commercial complex on the southside of town, your GPS will get you close but you need to keep your eyes open for the signs to get you the rest of the way. I guess the plus side of that location is they probably have lots of room to expand their brewing capacity in the future. There is plenty of parking, but I wouldn’t even consider trying to bike here as you have to traverse some very busy roads to get there. Score: 2/5
- Customer Service – The bar keep was great, offering some great suggestions and filling our glasses quickly and efficiently. There was almost no wait at the bar every time I went for a refill despite a packed house. What should also be mentioned is the dedication to military servicemembers here. Most of the staff are veterans and they frequently hold events to bring awareness and show appreciation for active duty military members, as well as providing support to many local and national charity organizations. Score: 4.5/5
Total Score: 18/25
Favorite Beer: Hedgehog Hefeweizen – 4.3% ABV
Final Thoughts: Having had them on my radar for a while, I am very glad I finally made the trek across town last time I was home to visit Veterans United. Great beer in a cozy tap room with lots of entertainment options make VU a must visit if you are in Jacksonville.