Fernandina Beach is always changing. Since the city was born, never was there a time when everyone agreed that no more improvements needed to be made. This persistent drive to improve encourages successful island eateries to cater to the ever-changing tastes and curiosities of the customer, and the Amelia Island Brewing Company is a fine example.
Opening ambitiously in 2016 as the Amelia Tavern, they brought a dynamic new look to Centre Street and gave us a local microbrewery of our own. As opportunity presented itself, the company rebranded as AIBC, and in 2021 launched a new taproom next door known as The Alley by AIBC, with the Amelia Tavern now known as The Tavern by AIBC.
Each has a unique menu, and both exclusively serve the same premium craft beers. The Tavern is a wide-open space with towering tanks enclosed in glass, a little raucous with a smart vibe, and delicious food. The Alley is a more intimate space, with a biergarten aesthetic and a laid-back atmosphere.
On a hopping Thursday afternoon, I sat down with longtime friend Charlie Crosby to enjoy a few frosty beverages and talk about old times. I ordered an Annie Brut IPA, which is citrusy but smooth, light in flavor and easy to drink, although it packs a wallop with a 9.3% APV. Charlie opted for the Margo Peach Wheat, a seasonal offering, a lighter beer at 5% APV, with a delightful peach aroma and a low hop bitterness.
At our server’s suggestion, we ordered the Crispy Bacon and Jalapeno Wontons for a snack. The wontons are a cross-cultural experience: crispy Asian rice wrapper with a spicy southwest filling served with a house-made sweet-and-sour sauce. For our second round, Charlie liked the Annie Brut IPA and ordered her own, while I went for the Sm’kn M’rtha, a smoky stout with lots of character. We also ordered a Grilled Shrimp Flatbread. The crispy crust came topped with bubbling hot fig jam, blue cheese, and a snappy balsamic glaze.
When our glasses were empty, we headed toward the door, where we bumped into our very good friend Mike Stauffer on his way into the Tavern. Our schedule was open, and so we sat once again, this time on the outside patio. We ordered drinks and watched the world walk by. Mike is not a beer man; he is a man of the tropics and enjoys a Captain & Coke as often as not, but Charlie and I were feeling adventurous and tried out the AIBC line of hard seltzers. The Jalapeno Pineapple Guava sounded—and was—most delicious.
We ordered a basket of the new Kimchi Fries and Crispy Brussel Sprouts for the table. The company, the drinks, the food, the service, everything was perfect. We sat and swapped stories and enjoyed it all, and as darkness fell and the streetlights came on, we knew it was time to head home.
If you’re ready for lunch or dinner, the Tavern is open Tuesday to Sunday. If drinks and snacks are the call, The Alley is open evenings on Wednesday and Thursday and all day Friday to Sunday at 318 and 316 Centre Street respectively.