I headed down to Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend and, as I am want, tried to find a place to have a good pint with dinner. I succeeded.
I found Kickbacks Gastropub in the old historic district of Jacksonville. It's a bit of a contradiction. At first glance, it looks like a typical dive bar but boasts 60 taps and an extensive bottle list. It is filled with flat screen TVs but blasts loud music instead of the game. You wouldn't expect to be able to get much more than pub fare or a burger for food but they have quite the gourmet menu (at least, that's what they shoot for).
One of the first things you notice is the large board with neon writing on it that details the 60 taps available that evening. I decided to get a draft of Terrapin Oak Aged Wake N' Bake and figure out what to eat. The server was prompt, attentive and knew his beer. We talked about the beers he had on tap and he brought me out the extensive bottle list too.
I decided to go with The Harpoons; skewers of broiled bacon-wrapped shrimp and scallops and they were served with steamed broccoli and fried onion chips. They were very good, much better than most pub food I have had. Was it fantastic? No but they are aiming high and it's damn good...especially when you consider all the good beer.
The Terrapin Oak Aged Wake N Bake was very good. I usually don't think that oak aging stouts works that well but this one turned out pretty well. It doesn't really improve the beer any but it does make for some pleasant differences.The oak aging adds some nice dark fruit notes to the stout but doesn't overpower the roasty coffee flavors that make the beer so great.
I chatted with the server about a good local beer to try and he suggested something from Cigar City Brewing. Cigar City is based in Tampa and started brewing in 2008. I decided to try the Jai Alai IPA. And it was a good choice. It's well-balanced but with strong citrusy hop profile. Orange, grapefruit and apricot with a bready malt backbone. The website says it weighs in at 7.5%...really tasty and smooth even at that strength. I was impressed. (Between Cigar City and Saint Somewhere, I may have to revamp my entire thinking of what Florida breweries are capable of...)
Only one point of feedback...the draft beer list. It's on a couple of greaseboards (see the fist picture) and the writing is so small I had to get up and walk over to the list to read what was there. Maybe I'm just getting old. Or they could invest in a couple big chalkboards so you can read it from across the pub.
Kickbacks Gastropub is the best beer bar in Jacksonville. I wish this place had been open when I live here.
A couple beer sidenotes from the rest of the trip...
Stopped out by Singleton's Seafood Shack in Mayport as I always do. Even straight out of a bottle, Sam Adams Boston Lager goes great with fresh seafood.
Out at the The Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville, the European Street Cafe runs a "Biergarten" where you can get good beer while you watch the Jacksonville Suns play ball, which is always welcome.