Interview: Ben and Riley of Intuition Ale Works

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This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of EU Jacksonville.

As mentioned last month, Intuition’s new 12,000 square foot brewery and taproom is now open. Despite running what now has to be Jacksonville’s most buzzworthy brewery, I was able to steal a few minutes from Intuition Ale Works Founder, Ben Davis, and Taproom Manager, Riley Leuthold, to talk about their first couple weeks in the new Downtown location.

Hopped Up: So now that you’ve been open just over a week and a half, how has the public reception been? Are people digging the new spot?

Riley Leuthold: It’s been great! The events have been awesome. There’s people coming to the area that normally wouldn’t be there before, and everyone’s been having a good time. We’ve seen a lot of beer go through the taps.

HU: I bet. So I think the big question on people’s minds is what’s going to keep people coming out on the weeknights or when there aren’t big events in the area?

RL: I think number one would be the beer!

Ben Davis: I think we’re going to get creative with some of our programming. One of the good things is that a lot of the shows we get at the arena are not Friday or Saturday night crowds so that helps. Take the Pearl Jam concert, imagine how busy we would’ve been and that was on like a Wednesday night. Yesterday we discovered that the Sharks actually have a really good turnout and I didn’t even know that. On the weekends, after football season, we’ll go back to doing a lot of the events we used to do like the BBQ competitions and disc golf tournaments and just more food stuff too. Yeah, just going back to doing what we used to do and hopefully more.

HU: Speaking of food, I noticed Black Sheep will be running the kitchens. Do you know what kind of stuff they have planned?

BD: Well, we met yesterday actually, and I think the plan is to roll out a smaller menu to gauge things in the beginning and eventually evolve into a larger menu. I was sitting there last night just thinking about how many people would be eating if it was an option. We will definitely have some fun with it and collaborate on some cool stuff.

RL: Housemade sausage is one of the big goals for them.

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HU: Sounds awesome. So what new opportunities does the new facility open for you in terms of programming or just overall delivering an even better experience for your guests?

RL: I think it’s a more prominent location. We’re definitely going to see a broader audience which gives us an opportunity to educate more people on craft beer. We may have captured a larger ratio of craft beer enthusiasts in the past but now we’re going to get more people who might not necessarily be as familiar with craft beer. We’ll be able to be the gateway for them into craft beer and show them what it has to offer.

As far as new programming, this Sunday we’ll be hosting the official Bold City Brigade away game watch party which is going to be an ongoing event. We’ve got our partnership with the Armada being right there and there’ll be collaborations with the different venues in general. Just having more space opens us up to host larger events. There’s a small partition in the taproom that’s a great little space that holds about 36 people for more personalized beer tours, classes and educational programs.

BD: Eventually we are going to have so much more capacity to brew more that it’s going to allow us to do more small-run cannings and bottlings which can tie into events of some sort. Things like that. There’s just a lot more opportunity for us to be creative.

HU: So, I hear there’s a walk-up window for purchasing to-go beers. How often is that going to be a thing?

BD: Basically every day that there’s an event at the arena, the baseball field, Metro Park and the football field we can legally do that. It’s pretty nuts.

HU: Wow, that is nuts! The rooftop seems to be a pretty big hit. Any cool plans to utilize it beyond it just being a super awesome space.

RL: I’m excited just to blast “Duval!” at the visiting team tailgaters across the street. We’re just going to keep it open and make it accessible to everybody. That space is definitely a draw.

HU: Before I let you go, are there any big expansion plans in terms of distribution?

BD: We are currently represented in the Tampa market all the way to the east coast of Florida down to Naples so we’ll definitely get them more beer along with Orlando, Tallahassee, and Gainesville. And honestly there’s still more opportunity here in Jacksonville for people who can’t get the beer so there’s a lot of room to grow here at home as well.

HU: So no plans to reach outside of Florida?

BD: It’s challenging enough to sell beer in your home state just because of the dynamics of the industry. Georgia would be really challenging I think, if not more so. And it’s kind of rubbed me the wrong way when you have some out-of-state brewers that come in and don’t get involved with the scene. Georgia breweries face a lot of issues they have to address legislatively in their state, so for us to just come in and say, “hey, we’re just selling our beer, we couldn’t give a shit about you guys,” I don’t know, I don’t really like that.

Be sure to visit Intuition’s new taproom at 929 E Bay Street in the Jacksonville Sports Complex District before the next Jags game or just to enjoy the sunset on their gorgeous rooftop bar. They are open every night of the week until 10pm and open early before Jags home games.

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