The bustling area of town known as San Marco has long been a destination for great food and wine. But, a new establishment is adding craft and import beer to the mix. Robert Smith, a self-proclaimed “foodie” who has been in the restaurant business since 1987 has opened a new concept for the Jacksonville area with his Grape and Grain Exchange in San Marco Square.
The shop is a hybrid of a package store and a bar. Patrons can choose a bottle of craft or import beer from the cooler and either take it with them or drink it on premises from a clean class presented by the bartender/cashier. But, do not mistake this for one of those package store/bars that are sprinkled around the area and take on a seedier look, this establishment is high-class all the way. The interior is features clean lines, and subdued decorating. Wooden shelves display the small-batch spirits, fine wines, and craft beers that are available and a bookcase in the back of the store contains recipe books that Smith refers to for more esoteric drink requests.
Soon, that bookcase will also serve as the portal to the first speakeasy in the Jacksonville area since perhaps the days of Prohibition. Smith, ever vigilant of hot trends around the country, wants to take advantage of the craft cocktail bars and speakeasy movement that is sweeping the nation. Combine that with the craft beer craze and Smith thinks he has come up with a winning combination.
Tomorrow night, Friday, January 25, Smith will play host to Highland Brewing Company and 7venth Sun Brewing Company for a special tasting of a collaboration between the two breweries. Called Trailblazer, the brew is a 7.7% ABV Belgian-style porter made with raisins in the boil as well as almonds, cacao, and dried cherries in the fermenter. The tasting is $10 and includes tastes of all of Highland’s year round beers as well as one of the first pours of Trailblazer.
The tasting begins at 6:00 p.m. and does not require a ticket. Grape and Grain Exchange is located at 2000 San Marco Blvd.
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- Highland brewery well worth a visit and a taste (sprbrewcrew.wordpress.com)