by Oliver Dodd
Orange Park doesn’t get any love. At times it can be the very pinnacle of suburban nightmare; impossible traffic, big box stores and boring chain restaurants ad nauseum. But there is hope. One small pizzeria with big goals arrived late last year to challenge the entrenched chain restaurants and capture the hearts of the local patrons. And from the looks of it, they just might pull it off.
While their on-premises brewing operation has yet to start, Brewer’s Pizza offers more than 20 outstanding American craft brews on tap; a decent number of which come from Florida’s best microbrews which, of course, includes Jacksonville’s very own Bold City Brewery and Intuition Ale Works. We were very fortunate to visit while they still had some Hopslam, a highly regarded and widely-coveted Double India Pale Ale brewed with six different varieties of hops and a bit of honey by Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. This beer currently sits at #7 on Beer Advocate’s list of the “Top Beers On Planet Earth” and wholly deserves that honor. This is one legendary beer and one of the few such masterpieces available in our region. The rest of the beer menu may not be quite as epic, but they’re all quality choices, making Brewer’s Pizza the only place to go in the Westside/Orange Park area for a good pint.
Alas, not everyone is so blown away by the prospect of occasionally indulging in a good fermented beverage. Fortunately, Brewer’s Pizza brings as much attention to quality and detail to their pizza craft as they do their beer. Their signature pie, the Florida Smacker, is a deep dish, pan pizza made with beer dough and baked until the corners are crispy to the point of being lightly charred. Even for those of us who outright dismiss deep dish pizzas as a rule, giving this one a try is a definite must. It’s primarily the dough which earns them such honors but the generous slathering of savory sauce and fresh toppings certainly help tip the scales in their favor.
Just a block down from the Orange Park Mall, the location may be less than ideal and the converted strip mall store interior may be a touch awkward, but Brewer’s Pizza has a lot to offer. Much to my delight, the place was quite busy, so I’d say the local patrons appreciate all they’re doing. Even though they might not single-handedly change the Orange Park dining landscape, there’s a good chance that their success will result in the appearance of some more quality places to eat and drink. Above all, they’ve given those of us scattered around the other parts of town a great reason to visit Orange Park.
by Oliver Dodd