The Brewery of the Jaguar God

Jacksonville’s newest craft brewery may also be its most unique. While most breweries with food offerings tend to feature classic bar food or New American fare, Tepeyolot Cerveceria will combine craft beer, ciders and wines with Mexican quick bites and a distinctive Aztec theme. This fusion is unusual in the craft beer scene, but it comes naturally to owner Luis Melgarejo, who sees it as the perfect way to combine the food and culture he learned from his family with his passion for brewing. “I wanted a brewery, but I wanted to do something that involves my heritage,” said Melgarejo. This commitment extends even to the name: Tepeyolot, or Tepeyollotl, meaning “heart of the mountain,” is an Aztec earth god who takes a form that’s sure to resonate in Jacksonville: the jaguar. “I wanted to use the Aztec influence because it’s pretty cool and different, and it’s something that’s part of my family history,” said Melgarejo.

Tepeyolot will lease the entire 5,407-square foot building at 2136 Kings Avenue from owner TC Jax Holdings. It will be a brewpub with seating for 199, and Melgarejo plans to focus as much on the food as the drinks. The menu will feature Mexican light fare including tacos, sweet tamales, Mexican street corn, churros, and chips and salsa. Many of the offerings will be based on family recipes. “At brewpubs, typically you’re going to have pizza or burgers,” said Melgarejo. “Why not have tacos and beer?”

Proposed rendering of Tepeyolot Cerveceria

The beers will focus heavily on lagers, with a flagship along the lines of Mexican-style favorites like Dos Equis. Melgarejo believes this will help distinguish Tepeyolot among other local breweries, though like the others he plans to brew some IPAs, stouts, and sours, and offer cider and wine as well. “I think that’s one of the best things about craft beer, you’re not really limited in what you want to do,” said Melgarejo. “But I definitely think the lagers need more representation.” Melgarejo intends the bar to have about 15 taps, but may expand over time.

Melgarejo says that easy drinking lagers go well with Mexican food, and may also appeal to people who don’t currently frequent craft breweries. “It’s also Florida and it’s hot,” he said. Overall, Melgarejo plans for a casual, affordable experience. “My goal is you come in, get a plate of food and something to drink, and you can walk out under 20 bucks,” he said.

Kings Avenue comeback

When completed, the San Marco Crossing apartment complex will surround Tepeyolot.

Tepeyolot is almost impossibly well located. Standing on Kings Avenue catty-corner from the recently opened I-95 access, the building is part of the Philips Highway-Kings Avenue corridor, one of the most rapidly revitalizing areas of the Urban Core. Tepeyolot will be adjacent to the San Marco Crossing apartment complex currently under construction, and just up the street from dozens more houses and planned apartments on Philips Highway. It’s also half a mile from San Marco Square, placing it within a short walk to the core of the neighborhood.

The building dates to 1953. It was originally home to Chester Dixon Chiropractor, Jones & Johnson Real Estate, a lamp store named Lampland, and David Roebuck Dry Cleaner. Later it served as the headquarters of advertising company Media Works. More recently, it was home to a recording studio, a dance studio, and office space, but it has sat empty for several years. The building was originally part of a thriving commercial district at the intersection of Philips Highway and Atlantic Boulevard known as Times Square. A companion to San Marco Square, Times Square was mostly demolished for the construction of what became I-95 in the 1950s. One of the last structures built in Times Square, Tepeyolot’s building is now one of the very few that remain.