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Aardwolf Brewing Company is on a Mission to Prove that Everyone Loves Craft Beer

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Aardwolf is a type of insectivorous hyena from South Africa and the name of a family- and dog-friendly brewing company in Jacksonville with, what else, a stuffed aardwolf mascot.

Yes, Aardwolf Brewing Company owners have a passion for beer and it shows. The brewery's Belgian Pale Ale took Bronze at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, the largest competition in the nation, for Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale.

Co-owner Preben Olsen explains, "At heart, Aardwolf is tap room focused with a large emphasis on bringing as much variety to the table as possible." Although their award-winning Belgian Pale Ale is a favorite in the tap room and in distribution, the brewery touches on a range of beer from experimental to classic styles. Everything from sour beers, barrel aged offerings, hoppy IPAs, German PILS, to English Milds are produced at Aardwolf.

In fact, Aardwolf offers 5- to 10-gallon pilot batches of craft brews every Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. Olsen tells us, "It's not uncommon to get mixed reactions. More importantly, these small experimental releases open a dialogue with the patrons.". Continues Olsen about their mid-week batch tastings, which is now their busiest day, "It's a good sign when a regular can tell you what they like in a beer, it's even better when they can say what in particular they don't."

Without their own kitchen, a range of food trucks feed hungry beer drinkers Thursday through Sunday with a different truck each day. Foodies can plan ahead and check their website calendar to learn what food truck is scheduled that evening. The brewery also can be rented for private events, accommodating 20 people in the lounge to a full taproom rental for 195 event-goers.

Aardwolf beers can be ordered in snifters, pints, quarts, growlers and gallons, depending on the types of beer. Midweek pilot brew tastings can only be ordered in snifters to allow as many people as possible to get a taste and provide feedback. Heading out with someone who professes to not a beer fan? Not a problem, as Aardwolf also serves a small selection of wine.

But how did this brewery with the strange name get started? Brewmaster Michael is a graduate of the Master Brewing program at Siebel Institute and its sister school Doemens Academy in Munich with experience in other brewing companies. Olsen is a graduate of Auburn University majoring in business administration and marketing. Together, they forged Aardwolf Brewing Company in an old brick building.

These two beer lovers enjoy their craft and want to turn others on to quality craft beer. "There is so much range and depth in beer," Olsen exclaims, "that no person can truly claim to 'not be a beer person,' and we intend to prove that!"

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