Michael: I went to school for ceramic art and pursued that career path for a few years, but eventually decided that it wasn't going to be something I could make a living doing. In 2007 I decided that my other passion, beer, was something I might be able to make a career out of and went to brewing school at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich. From there I went on to work at Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Ga., and then helped start Brewer's Pizza in Orange Park. Opening this size brewery facility has been my goal for the last six years and everything I have done during that time has been with the intention of learning to brew the best beer possible. For me, this brewery is a dream that is finally being realized after years of effort.
Preben: After moving back to Jacksonville several years ago with a marketing degree from Auburn University, I quickly learned that the economy and demographics were severely limiting the job market options in my chosen field. Fortunately, I found a job at Grassroots in Five Points where the owners would eventually impart their love of craft beer to me. It’s through the medium of craft beer sales I met Michael Payne. For the past 3 years I have been honing my skills and knowledge of the craft beer industry locally as well as nationally with thoughts of potentially someday seeking a regional marketing position for a craft brewery. Michael approached me about participating in the opening a local brewery nearly a year ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Being able to market your own product, and being a part of the rapidly evolving City of Jacksonville beer scene is the best of all worlds…..
Metro Jacksonville: What is your vision for Hendricks Avenue and what role does Aardwolf Brewing Company play in that vision?
Preben: With the concurrent development of the San Marco Train Station across the street (a fortuitous unplanned occurrence), we believe that the brewery will contribute to the gentrification of an industrialized section of Hendricks Avenue left idle for a number of years. There is every reason to believe that the synergy of the two redeveloped sites bordering the Hendricks Avenue railroad crossing can only benefit the remainder of the area – both residential and commercial. The brewery taproom will provide a new complimentary night time destination in an area of Jacksonville already known for its outstanding restaurants and shops.
Metro Jacksonville: Where can we go to get updates and additional information on Aardwolf Brewing Company?
Preben: The Aardwolf website (under reconstruction) will be one source of information. We also intend to set up a Facebook Page.
Metro Jacksonville: How difficult was it to find small business financing in this market? Any advice for those seeking startup capital?
Michael: In all probability, acquiring startup capital from conventional sources – at this point in time – for this type of venture is not highly probable.
We were fortunate to have found private funding so that hurdle at least is one we were able to avoid.
Interview by Ennis Davis