The brewers and owners of Southern Swells Brewing Company in Jacksonville Beach, Corey Adams and Jason Varney, are young and full of enthusiasm for their profession. Both are fathers to young children and share an insatiable thirst for creating and serving unique, Northeastern-style brews that tantalize and engage drinkers in their neighborhood and beyond.
“About five or six years ago, we really got into brewing hardcore,” Varney said. “Jacksonville was sort of getting its legs under itself in the brewing world.”
“Yeah, we kept saying to each other we should start a brewery here,” Adams added. “And that sort of pushed us to brewing more frequently. It led us to say, ‘Let’s make a run at this.’ We went from once or twice a month to several times
Adams and Varney went to high school together in Rhode Island. Adams first came to Jacksonville while working for a Massachusetts financial firm, but soon founded his own web development company here. Varney was looking for something different after college and moved to the Sunshine State on Adams’ recommendation. He ended up getting a job at the same financial firm; after nine years, he left to open the brewery.
“The city is taking such a cool turn,” Adams said. “When we first got here, it was just chain restaurants and now there’s such an exploding food scene.”
Southern Swells’ innovative brews and the taproom’s modern design fit into the city’s rapidly expanding, diverse culinary scene. It evokes the beach as a beach bar should, but also presents a certain sophistication, with the just the right touch of rustic in the reclaimed wood and glass. Adams credits the look in part to his web design experience.
“Naturally, we’re New England boys and there’s a massive demand for New England-style IPAs, pale ales and double IPAs,” Adams said. “We wanted to be one of the breweries here in Florida that was producing those beers regularly.”
“We’re constantly working on and tweaking our recipes,” Varney chimed in. “It’s definitely not an easy style to do well. So, we spend a lot of time doing pilot batches and switching things around trying to [get it perfect].”
Though Southern Swells specializes in quaffs in the styles of the Northeast, it’s well-grounded in the local community, using local ingredients and maintaining collaborations with local businesses. Their Bold Brewed Series coffee porter, which utilizes a different Bold Bean coffee in each batch, is a prime example.
“We went down to Bold Bean and did a cupping,” Adams explained. “Which was a cool process for us. We tasted five roasts altogether, from their primary blend to their single origins to the Ethiopian we went with [in this month’s release].”
The friends and brewers strongly crafted beer means it’s created with a great deal of artistry and care.
“There is just so much you can do with beer,” said Varney. “People who say they don’t like beer haven’t really had good beer. There are just so many ingredients, from fruit to grain to whatever you want …”
“Donuts,” Adams interjected with a laugh, referring to an upcoming collaboration. “If you are producing a quality beer with quality ingredients, that’s craft.”
These two Yankee transplants hope their legacy of a strong work ethic and example of hard work transfer to their children and is evident in their product. From all indications, these qualities are obvious already.
EUROPEAN STREET CAFE
992 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach, 249-3001
2753 Park St., Riverside, 384-9999
5500 Beach Blvd., Southside, 398-1717
1704 San Marco Blvd., 398-9500, europeanstreet.com
1406 Hendricks Ave., San Marco, 527-1511
12601 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 647-9424
528 First St. N., Jax Beach, 853-6633, vpizza.com
KICKBACKS GASTROPUB/GOOZLEPIPE & GUTTYWORKS
910/914 King St., Riverside, 388-9551, kickbacksgastropub.com
SOUTHERN SWELLS BREWING COMPANY (pictured above)
1312 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach, 372-9289, southernswells.com
CAFÉ KARIBO/KARIBREW BREW PUB & GRUB
27 N. Third St., Amelia Island, 277-5269, cafekaribo.com
ENGINE 15 BREWING CO.
1500 Beach Blvd., Ste. 217, Jax Beach, 249-2337, engine15.com
BOLD CITY BREWERY
2670 Rosselle St., Ste. 7, Riverside, 379-6551
109 E. Bay St., Downtown, 503-7682, boldcitybrewery.com
BARLEY REPUBLIC IRISH PUBLIC HOUSE & RESTAURANT
48 Spanish St., St. Augustine, 547-2023, barleyrepublicph.com
HYPERION BREWING COMPANY
1740 N. Main St., Downtown, 518-5131, hyperionbrewing.com
PINGLEHEAD BREWING COMPANY
14B Blanding Blvd., Orange Park, 276-5150, pinglehead.com
WICKED BARLEY BREWING COMPANY
4100 Baymeadows Rd., Mandarin, 379-7077, wickedbarley.com
DRINK 2017 STORIES
BEER: SAND, SALT & SUDS
story by Marc Wisdom
WINE: BOTTLED POETRY
story by Claire Goforth
COCKTAILS: THE SWEETER THE SPIRITS
story by Claire Goforth
KOMBUCHA: BOOCH, PLEASE
story by Brentley Stead
Photography by Madison Gross