The Lost Story of Regional Breweries in Florida

October 12, 2017

A "regional brewery" can be described as one that distributes to particular regions on a smaller basis than the nationwide breweries many of us are familiar with today. According to the Brewers Association, a regional craft brewery is one with an annual production level between 15,000 and 6 million barrels. Currently, the Florida Beer Company and Cigar City Brewing are the only regional craft breweries operating in Florida.

Jax Brewing Company (1914 - 1956)

City: Jacksonville, Florida
Capacity: 100,000 annual barrels

(Ernie Oest via Bob Kay and

Married to the daughter of Jacob Schorr of Schorr-Kolkschneider Brewing Company of St. Louis, with the help of the Schorr family, William Ostner broke ground the Jacksonville Brewing Company in 1913.  The first brew from Ostner's 30,000 barrel a year brewery hit the market on May 16, 1914. By the time Jacksonville went dry in 1918, the brewery's employment was up to 243 and its debts had been retired.  During Prohibition, the brewery's name was changed to the Jax Ice and Cold Storage Company and the production of beer was replaced with Velvet Brand ice cream, Florida Export and Old Fashioned Dark "near beer" and the bottling of root beer and ginger ale.  Anticipating the end of prohibition, brewing capacity was expanded four months before the passage of the 21st Amendment, enabling Ostner to hit the ground running in 1933.

(Daniel Herbin/Moderncities)

In 1940, the company's name was changed to the Jax Brewing Company and by 1943, production had increased to 100,348 barrels annually.  By the 1950s, its Jax Beer label and trademark cockatoo dominated the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina drinking scenes. Other brands included Ostner's Lager Beer, Ostner's Sparkling Ale, Ostner's Stout, Hi Jax Beer, Jax Export Beer, Mecca Pale Beer, Jax Ale, Jax Brock, Royal Palm Beer, Fine's Sparkling Ale, Peninsula Ale and Rhein King Beer.  Due to the high cost of aluminum cans and the rising revenues of Jax Brewing's cold storage operation, Ostner's son sold his Jax Beer copyright to New Orleans-based Jackson Brewing Company in 1956.

The Jacksonville brewery was then repositioned as the Jax Ice and Cold Storage Company. In 1986, the business was sold to Industrial Cold Storage (now ICS Logistics). Today, the abandoned 130,000-square-foot brewery is one of a handful early Florida regional brewery buildings still standing.

(Ennis Davis, AICP/Moderncities)

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