By: Amber Green
Wicked Barley is a brewery and restaurant that will be opening in Jacksonville early 2016. Construction has just begun now that all of the city’s extensive zoning requirements have been met. The founders of the new Northeast Florida craft brewery are Philip Maple, Tobin Turney and Brett Baker. In a growing craft beer market, these three entrepreneurs have left nothing to chance in their planning.
It was five or six years ago that Maple started thinking about what it would take to open a craft brewery in his hometown. His longtime friend and executive chef for Wicked Barley, Brad Sueflohn, originally began kicking around ideas for a restaurant alone. The idea for the brewery sprung due to influence from Maple’s father, who has been home brewing for over 20 years. Maple’s father has been an integral part of recipe formulation for the brewery.
“Honestly, the real brains is Tobin, he’s probably the smartest one in the group,” Maple said. The second founder and brewery operations director, Turney, has joined Maple in spending a lot of time over the last few years learning from Maple’s father and exploring the process of brewing from top to bottom. Baker, the third founder, is also a close friend of Maple’s and will be the creator behind events and everything else taproom related as the taproom director for Wicked Barley.
“It becomes not only a craft beer destination but a destination you want to go to because there’s something else of value there…the restaurant or being able to walk back into nature and having a beer garden you can hang out in,” said Turney when describing inspiration he gained visiting competitive breweries in the more experienced West Coast scene.
As more breweries enter the craft beer scene in Northeast Florida the stakes have become higher, and aspiring entrepreneurs are having to get more creative. Wicked Barley will be the only brewery in Jacksonville to open up right on the water. At 4100 Baymeadows Rd, it will sit right on Goodby’s Creek. The plans for the brewery include a boat dock and an eventual kayak slip for those who’d like a cold one or a bite after a ride down the creek. The plans also feature a beer garden in the rear of the property that will give patrons direct access to Florida’s natural world.
The decision by the founders to build the brewery and restaurant from the ground up also yielded other unique opportunities. “We’re pulling water we discovered from the Florida aquifer…water is the main ingredient in beer so it has to be perfect and pristine,” Maple said.
On top of having a water well right on the property, they have invested in a reverse osmosis system to further ensure only the purest water makes it into each craft beer creation. It is important to Maple and the other founders that the beer they produce is of the highest quality. Wicked Barley will be the only craft brewery in the city to obtain a reverse osmosis system for the water they use to brew.
The origin of Wicked Barley’s name came from Sueflohn, the restaurant chef. Sueflohn grew up with Maple here in Jacksonville and has been pursuing a food career in Vegas for the last 10 years. “We’re trying to source our food locally,” Maple said. The founders and chef plan to provide natural quality ingredients in the dishes they will offer. Sausage made in-house will be one of the staple items on their menu. A “farm-to-table” mentality will lie behind the recipes.
The brewery will also ferment its own meads and ciders–a relatively untapped industry here in Jacksonville among other breweries. Innovation can also be expected from the brewery when it comes to its beers. Four of the brewery’s recipes have already been made permanent staple beers for Wicked Barley, and you can view the names of them on their website to get a taste of the fun titles and branding they plan to bring to the table. For an example, “Keep out of reach of children” is the name of their hard root beer. They have collaborated with local UNF graduate and talented graphic designer, Patrick Carter, to bring all of their branding ideas to life.
The founders of this new brewery have plenty in store for their future patrons. As equally excited about the craft beer culture in Northeast Florida as any other home-brewer or connoisseur, these guys plan to elevate the overall experience a brewery and restaurant can give to its customers. Baker says the guys at Engine 15 and Intuition Ale Works have both given some sound advice on the complex process of opening a brewery. But for the most part, these intrepid entrepreneurs have relied on years of home brewing experience, large financial investments, a personal passion for craft beer and the will to work at a job they truly enjoy.