Cars, Beers, and Books

When I last saw Steve Berry at The BookMark in January, he announced that he would be back on March 6, 2020 for his new book The Warsaw Protocol. Last time, I left work at 5:00 pm and arrived at the bookstore just in time for the talk. This time I decided to leave work at noon and spend the afternoon in Jacksonville beforehand.

My car was originally sold by Porsche Jacksonville. I didn’t get any service history when I bought the car and I hoped that the Jacksonville dealership would have it. So my first stop was to visit the Service department. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any records after the initial sales preparation. I did buy a shirt in the shop, so I didn’t leave empty-handed.

Porsche Jacksonville

While there, I had a walk around the cat lot. They had all of the new 911s, 718 Boxsters and Caymans, Panameras, Cayennes, and Macans, as well as an interesting variety of used Porsches. Along the street were several other brands including a rare Karma Revero.

Karma Revero

There were many 911 models to choose from.

Porsche 911 Lineup

While wandering the lot, a man drove in with his Porsche Boxster Spyder 987 (a special edition Boxster). The car was probably 9-10 years old but in excellent condition. I like the side stripes a lot, maybe a future addition to my car?

Porsche Boxster Spyder 987
Porsche Boxster Spyder 987

Business and pleasure finished, I headed east toward Atlantic Beach to Reve Brewing (pronounced “rev”). I had heard about this new brewery from some craft-beer friends and had tasted one of their beers. But I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived. The brewery was fairly small and located in a strip mall.

Reve Brewing
Reve Brewing

The place was fairly crowded for an early Friday afternoon. The interior was a combination of modern industrial and old-fashioned. The beer menu was entirely trendy. Reve specializes in three styles of beer: IPAs, sours, and imperial stouts—the current popular styles. However, I did notice a different recent addition, a Mexican lager (whatever that means) called Conejo Especial, and ordered a “taster” size. It was good.

Reve Brewing Beer

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I would like next. I asked the bartender, Joey, what the least hoppy IPA was and he returned with two samples. The first one, called Feed Your Head, was very bitter and not to my liking. However, the second one, called A Bit Too Leisurely, was dry hopped and not bitter at all but rather citrus-like. It might be the first IPA that I genuinely like. I ordered a taster size and really enjoyed it.

Finally, I purchased a crowler of their Along the Cherry Lane, a sour with cherries and dragonfruit. I will take this to the next beer-share at Red Pig Brewing.

Before I drank any more beer, I need some (late) lunch so I drove south towards Jacksonville Beach and picked up some fast food to-go. I headed next to Green Room Brewing a few blocks away. I had been there once in September 2018 and liked the place.

Green Room Brewing

I ordered a flight of four beers and found a table with my food. The bartender, Brendan, was a graduate of Embry-Riddle so we had a good chat about that.

Green Room Brewing Beers

I drank the beers in order (right-to-left in the photo). The flavors were OK, but the common characteristic was that they were thin and with low carbonation. I like my beer less filtered with a bit more bubbles. I still wanted to pick up a small crowler to bring home, so I ordered one of the Count Shakula, a chocolate oatmeal stout.

Next I headed north to Neptune Beach where the book signing would take place. I was early, so after snagging a parking spot in front of the bookstore I had a walk around town. I also walked the one block down to the beach to pass some time. Neptune Beach is a beautiful area with many good shops, restaurants, and bars. The nearby houses and condos are very nice with well-kept landscaping. It’s somewhere I could happily live, for sure.

Neptune Beach Trail
Neptune Beach
Neptune Beach Orange Street

It was time to get back to The BookMark in order to purchase a book and get a good seat. The shop is very nice, but rather small, so it was best to get there early.

The BookMark Bookstore

At 7:00 pm Steve Berry and his wife Elizabeth arrived. He spoke for about 30 minutes about his new book The Warsaw Protocol and took questions from the audience. Near the end of his talk he announced that it would be his last time speaking at The BookMark because he and Elizabeth were moving to Orlando (from St. Augustine). Rona, the store owner, presented them with a brick that will be placed in front of the store.

After the talk, I quickly got in line to have my book signed. We briefly talked about Orlando and that there was only one independent bookstore (Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park) they we could think of. He signed my book while we took a photo and I was soon on my way back home.

Steve Berry and James Day

In total, it was an enjoyable day filled with my three favorite things: cars, beers, and books. I got to see some great cars, taste some delicious (and not so good) new beers, and meet (again) one of my favorite authors to get a book signed. I came home with some great souvenirs from the day.

Shirt, Beer, and Book

Well done, Jacksonville.

The Year of the Pig

Red Pig Brewery, to be precise. Red Pig Brewery officially opened on March 2, 2019, and I was there. I had been looking for a new local hangout when I heard about this new craft brewery opening just two miles from my place, in Holly Hill, Florida. I knew I had to visit for the grand opening.

I arrived at noon just as they opened. Inside, the brewery is long and narrow with windows lining the length of the long stone walls. The bar itself is made of three large pieces of reclaimed cypress wood. The kettles and fermenting tanks line the far end of the back wall. Opening day was sunny and warm so we could take advantage of the courtyard. They had a food truck parked out front.

Red Pig Brewery Grand Opening

I sampled several of the beers and eventually ordered three. I started with the Over Budget pale ale which I enjoyed despite it not being one of my favorite styles. I also ordered the Old Florida porter, one of my favorite beers to this day; this beer is a regular on the taplist. My favorite beer that day was the Mile 417 German Pilsner (not to be confused with the normal Czech Pilsner).

Red Pig Brewery Grand Opening
Red Pig Brewery Grand Opening

Robert “Red” Carson is the brewer and co-owner with his wife Angie. Red is a fan of Mikkeller, a brewery from Denmark, as evident from the five posters hanging in the brewery. His favored styles are Belgian lambics, sours, New England IPAs, and wild ales. All of his beers are unfiltered and vegan.

Red Pig Brewery Logo

The name Red Pig Brewery comes from the name of his grandfather’s barbecue restaurant in the 1930s on Main Street, Daytona Beach, called Red Pig. Note that the “Red Pig” in the logo is an ambigram, reading the same upside down. I recommend buying a glass or two as they have chosen special (metric) glasses to enhance their beer styles. This makes their pours odd sizes: the “pint” is 16.9 oz. (50 cl) and the stemmed glass is 11.6 oz. (33 cl). It gives the brewery a quirky, European flavor.

Red Pig Brewery Grand Opening
Red Pig Brewery Grand Opening

After a fun opening day and several delicious beers, I knew I would be back—probably often.

I did start going regularly. For the last three Saturdays that March, my old favorite food truck, Vitamina T, was serving authentic Mexican food. I have gotten to know the owner, his daughter, and their dog King over the years at various local breweries. I’ve enjoyed their huevos racheros, burritos, and tacos.

Throughout the Spring and Summer I continued to frequent the brewery. Many times I brought a book or my computer and worked at the end of the bar or at one of the outside tables.

In June, the brewery purchased a slushie machine. I don’t often drink them, but they are very popular. A good alternative to beer, for those who prefer frozen drinks.

After being trapped inside for several days during Hurricane Dorian in September, I was glad to see The Pig reopen as usual on Wednesday afternoon after the storm passed earlier that morning. They didn’t have any damage.

Like most craft breweries, Red Pig offers live music and an occasional comedy night. However, one Sunday in October the brewery hosted a local writer for a reading. Author Rhonda Browning White read from her new book The Lightness of Water & Other Stories. Her Southern accent and voice changes really brought the characters to life. I purchased a hardcover copy which she was happy to sign.

Red Pig Brewery Book Signing

You never know what will happen from one visit to the next. In November, Red and Angie messaged me that another local brewer had told them the story of a librarian who used to order a “beer suicide” which is a pint of beer filled with a combination of all of the beers on tap. They realized it was me. So the next time I stopped in Red Pig, I ordered one. Like before, everyone thought I was crazy but I explained that the end result can often be surprisingly good. So they poured me one and I then poured samples for others. Most were surprised that it was “not bad” so that became its name. I don’t think Red approves.

Red Pig Brewery Not Bad Beer

One night in December a new couple came to the brewery, the woman carrying an old Polaroid camera. It was such a novelty that people began gathering and chatting and snapping photos for souvenirs. I like this one taken by the excellent bartender Steno. Fortunately I took a digital photo of it because I left it on the bar and never got it back. We had so much fun that we all got invited to their Christmas party / surprise wedding (although I couldn’t go).

Red Pig Brewery Polaroid

For Christmas they placed a large tree inside the brewery. A few of us regulars strung the lights and added ornaments. I don’t like normal Christmas trees, but this one was different. I thought they should have kept it there permanently, but I suppose they needed the space. It was about this time that another regular donated a record player, speakers, and a stack of vinyl records. So during slower times, we get to choose the music and listen to real records. Earlier in December they removed the ceiling tiles which opened the space up and exposed the wooden beams making the room feel a bit bigger and less office-like.

Red Pig Brewery Christmas

Enter 2020. They weren’t open on New Year’s Eve, but I went in a few days later. The large windows give a clear view of the parking lot and on this night I noticed my car surrounded by two large trucks. So I walked outside to take this photo. It reminded me of the early days of parking my MINI Cooper somewhere only to find it later surrounded by much larger vehicles.

Red Pig Brewery Parking

On Super Bowl Sunday, I knew most bars would be crowded. But Red Pig Brewery doesn’t have a TV so I guessed it would not be too busy. I thought that surely there would be a few others who weren’t interested in the game and would be at the Pig. But I had the place to myself for a few hours, hanging out with Brent, Red, and Angie.

Red Pig Brewery Interior

Lately I have been regularly visiting on “Wild Ale Wednesday” when they crack open a different, sometimes expensive, bottle of wild-fermented ale. The night has slowly evolved into a beer exchange and tasting night with other regulars bringing in their latest acquisitions from out-of-town breweries. While I don’t often drink sours, I do enjoy a wild ale with its funky taste, usually produced by fermenting with a strain of brettanomyces. Wednesday is becoming my favorite night of the week.

In February Red Pig approached their one-year anniversary and threw a big party on Saturday, February 29 (due to their actual anniversary date falling on a Monday, a day they are closed). Just like opening day, this was a party I didn’t want to miss.

Red Pig Brewery One Year Anniversary Event

After attending another beer-related event in the afternoon, I arrived around 5:30 pm. The evening was sunny and cool and the brewery and courtyard were crowded. I found my friends and we enjoyed several beers in the courtyard. All of the regulars were there and I also met several new people. When I saw the group gathering for a photo, I ran to join. Later I wondered if it was a specific group photo and I crashed it, but was reassured that they were happy to include me. Strangely, it’s the only photo I have of the event because I did not take any photos myself. I just enjoyed the day instead. Thanks to Tim for posting it on his Facebook page.

Red Pig Brewey One Year Anniversary Group Photo

I don’t go out that often, but when I feel like getting out of my loft, Red Pig Brewery is where I go. Red, Angie, Steno, and Brent have become friends. I usually go there alone but I always see the regulars, some of whom have become new friends, as well. I meet someone new every week. It’s my second home. I’m truly happy for Red and Angie who are doing what they love and who have created a friendly and fun place where people can meet up, relax, talk to each other, and enjoy delicious beer. I hope Red Pig Brewery has many years of success.

If you want to read more about Red Pig Brewery, visit their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Untappd sites.