“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”—Benjamin Franklin
St. Augustine is about to get another reason to be happy – and hoppy. Bog Brewing Company is set to open its microbrewery in the West King Street Historic District in early March. This place is all about craft beer. That’s it. No food, no frills, no problem.
“We’re just keeping things simple. We’re going to get the doors open and gauge the interest and react to what people want,” says Steve Mendoza, the head brew master and owner.
Steve and his brother John France, along with business partner/ beer-tender Jeffery Hayes will be the only ones working there in every capacity. They’ll have four to six beers available at a time, on a rotating basis. They’ll start with a light, crisp Wheat Pale Ale, an IPA (single Pacific Jade Hop), a Cream Ale and a Smoked Chipotle Porter.
“We’re a really small operation,” Steve says. The ‘tour’ takes about two seconds – the whole brewing system (the “heart of the beast”) is in full view – two copper tanks and two fermenters. “But I think it’s nice when the owner and the brewer is here all the time so when someone wants to know about the beer, we’re right here. It helps with the small town feel of the place.”
The easy-going trio has spent the past year transforming the old 1900s-era space at 218 West King into a simple, comfortable 1500-square foot taproom.
“We built every single thing in this place,” John says. They stripped the stucco walls – embedded with horse-hair and shells – to expose the historic brick. The old floors went from crummy linoleum and carpet to a sleek grey concrete. They constructed the wood bar and even built the tables out of old barn wood from Okeechobee. The floor-to-ceiling front windows add to the inviting hang-out-awhile ambiance.
An award-winning home brewer, Steve learned the craft beer trade and management skills from many years of on-the-job training in restaurants, bars and breweries in Washington D.C. and Asheville, North Carolina. His degree is in Journalism, but his life story has played out in the hospitality business instead.
“It was always the dream to work for myself. I’ve run businesses so long for other people, I thought, ‘I can do this.’ Steve says. “We look forward to having a big craft beer scene in town.”
John also brings years of experience in restaurants and bar work in Boston, Chicago. When his brother wanted to open a brewery, he didn’t hesitate. “We wanted to do something for ourselves. We’re really close and complement each other well. We share the same vision.”
Jeffery liked the concept and came on board, too. He worked full-time at the Floridian Restaurant while helping the brothers build the business. “We’re looking forward to this being the cool local spot,” Jeffery says. They all want it to be the kind of neighborhood place locals bring their friends and family to when they visit.
This Is It
In 2014, they knew they wanted to start a microbrewery somewhere in Florida, but didn’t know where. They searched all up and down the coast, from Neptune Beach to Titusville, looking for the perfect spot. Enter St. Augustine with its allure of history, a building with character, a small town laid-back vibe and beaches, too. Eureka! Love at first sight.
“When we found this location, we loved it. We love everything about the town, too. There are a lot of cool things happening here. It feels like a smaller Asheville of the South,” Steve says. As they get settled, they plan to reach out to local businesses to integrate interests – such as local coffee roasters for an enhanced Porter.
No Boring Beer
“I really enjoy all kinds of beers. I can’t say I’m just an IPA guy. I love a clean lager, like the stouts, like it all,” Steve says. He’s betting most of his customers feel the same. He plans to constantly rotate to keep things interesting.
“Part of the fun of brewing is always changing, always experimenting. If you always make the same thing, it becomes like factory work. I want people to come in each time and say, ‘what’s new today?’”
Seems like the kind of place Ben Franklin would’ve liked a lot.
Stay tuned for opening day information.
Images courtesy of Bog Brewing Company.
218 West King Street | 904-679-3146