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Jacksonville Historical Society Brews Interest In The Past At 'Pop-Up' Beer Event

On Tuesday night, Jacksonville residents drank to history at an event focusing on the Bold City’s bygone brews.

The sudsy shindig was one in a series of celebrations meant to foster a better understanding of the city’s history among the younger generation.

Around 200 people toasted their pints at Aardwolf brewery in San Marco as self-professed "idea architect" Damien Lamar Robinson sang the city’s very own ode to beer.

The Jacksonville Historical Society is the architect of this celebration, which is the latest in its series called "Pop-Up History."

One of the Historical Society’s board members is Wayne Wood, but on Tuesday night he played Jax Brewing Company founder William Ostner.

Ostner was a German immigrant who, after spending time in St. Louis, settled in Jacksonville and founded the beer operation in 1913. Jax Brewing survived prohibition and flourished in the 1930s.

Wood says Jax Brewing was the first to fashion something now ubiquitous in beer drinking: the six pack.

“We went down to Tower Hardware and got 3,000 burlap bags with our logo printed on it, put six beers in each one and sold them as six packs for a $1.29,” Wood's Ostner told the crowd.

But that ingenuity wasn't enough to keep the company afloat. Jax Brewing eventually lost out to larger companies like Anheuser-Busch and Miller, which could afford expensive canning machines that became the norm.

Wood says the Historical Society tries to bring the city’s past to life in ways that connect with young people.

“We tell people when it’s going to be, but we don’t tell them where it’s going to occur or what the topic is going to be until just the last minute,” Wood says. “We build up our audience on social media, and then the day before, we announce where it’s going to be and what’s going to happen.”

Joanna Deloge was one of the night’s attendees and says she was pulled in by the mystery.

“I have seen Pop-Up History on social media for a while and it sounded so exciting that I thought ‘I’m going to go out and try this,’” Deloge said. “So, I talked my daughter into meeting me over here, she’s from Riverside, and so we decided to come over and check it out.”

With beer glasses in hand, both Deloges said they’ll be attending the next Pop-Up History event when it’s announced. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.