As one of the city of Jacksonville’s newest members of the Planning Commission, Ben Davis is on point when it comes to nurturing a creative business culture here on the First Coast. After launching Intuition Ale Works in 2010, the craft beer brewery was the first in the state of Florida to can its beer, and it has been flying off the shelves ever since. We asked the local entrepreneur to share with us his thoughts on the rise of craft beer on the First Coast and the community that supports it.
How did you originally get into the craft beer industry?
I really like the whole process of creating flavor, and wine was my first exposure to that.
I started out working as a harvest intern at a winery when I was living in California. I always liked beer too, and in Northern California there were a lot of local breweries, so when I came back to Jacksonville, I wanted to start one of my own.
What’s your favorite Intuition beer right now?
Well, I’m kind of a traditionalist—I like my beer to taste like beer. I like “Easy on the Eyes,” which is a session IPA, and I love our Oktoberfest.
Is there another craft beer/brewery that you enjoy?
One of my favorite beers in town is Aardwolf’s Styrofoam Pony Stout.
Why do you think Jacksonville has embraced craft breweries in recent years?
In my experience, this is a very loyal community; we are loyal to local brands. Taprooms have a good vibe; they are places where you can catch up with friends without going to a nightclub or a sports club. I don’t think I realized how strongly Jacksonville would embrace us and embrace craft beer in general, but with the fine dining and the art scene growing, I guess this is just another part of the cultural trend.
How are local breweries good for the community?
We are invested in the community. The people who work at Intuition, for instance, are concerned residents; we live in town, I live in the neighborhood. We are involved in a lot of different events and charities. Compared to national companies, a higher percentage of our resources go into local organizations.
Should we know about any trends or changes that may be happening in the industry?
Unfortunately, there is some consolidation going on in the beer industry. What I would consider to be “anti-craft beer” forces are buying up craft breweries. You wonder how it’s going to affect our ability to sell our beers in the marketplace.
What can consumers do to support the craft beer movement?
In an ideal world, you’d like consumers to be concerned with authenticity, to know where their beer is being made and who is making it. They can support the retailers and bars and restaurants that serve craft beer.
What’s on the horizon for Intuition?
We will be moving to the corner of Bay Street and A. Philip Randolph downtown. It’s going to give us an opportunity to do a lot of big events and be involved in everything that’s going on downtown. Also, for the last three years, we’ve been maxed out in terms of how much beer we can make. This will give us an opportunity to grow and have a much larger retail component.