A proper, long-term home

Ruby Beach Brewing, which has slung craft beer in its space at 131 1st Avenue in Jacksonville Beach since 2015, is closing up shop and moving into new digs in Downtown Jacksonville. They will take over the now vacant former Letter Shop building at 228 E. Forsyth Street, built in 1904.

The Letter Shop building offers more space than their present location. “The size and footprint of this new space will give our brewery a proper, long-term home. We can now double our tank capacities, with room to add additional fermenters in the future,” said Ruby Beach owner Mark Vandeloo in a press release. “We’ll also be able to offer more small-batch beers, and we plan to begin a barrel aging program in the basement.” Vandeloo also said Ruby Beach plans to start canning its beers.

Bringing the Beach Downtown

The business was founded as Zeta Brewing Company, a restaurant and brewpub, in 2015. In 2018, the restaurant element was removed in favor of more brewery and taproom space, and the company was rebranded Ruby Beach Brewing. The name pays homage to the area’s history, Ruby Beach being the original name of what’s now Jacksonville Beach. The brewery will keep the name as it moves inland. “Just because we won’t be located off A1A, doesn’t mean we’ve lost that identity,” said Vandeloo.

In January 2020, Marc and Beth Angelo of 127 1st Avenue North LLC purchased Ruby Beach’s building and the adjacent one that formerly housed Campeche Bay from Chris Hionides for a sum of $1.85 million. The buildings will be demolished for new 12,000-square-foot structure that is planned to house a two-story restaurant and other businesses. Hionides’ company Petra owns the former Letter Shop building that Ruby Beach will move into.

The brewery plans to make the move in phases. Vandaloo hopes to have the brewing element fully operational by May, the same time the Jacksonville Beach location will close, allowing the brewery to transfer production without interruption. The taproom is expected to be completed in July. While this means loyalists will have to wait two months before they can drink Ruby Beach beer in situ, Vandeloo says it will still be available in stores. “We’ve planned ahead to make this a seamless transition,” said Vandeloo. “We’re ramping up production now in anticipation of the move, so our distributor and customers won’t notice a gap in the availability of our beer around the city while we prepare our new taproom to welcome guests.”

The Letter Shop building

Renderings show that Ruby Beach will keep the Letter Shop building’s distinctive mail-themed signage on the exterior wall. The brewery will occupy the 2,500 square foot first floor space, which Vandeloo says will allow for increased production and variety. The new taproom will feature the current bar, made from wood reclaimed from the Jacksonville Beach pier.

There will also be an outdoor patio with an additional bar, and while there will be no kitchen, there will be a space for food trucks. The second floor will be rental space for parties, corporate events, and popup opportunities. “We’re creating a communal atmosphere, complete with high-top tables and comfortable seating to bring people together around conversation and good beer,” said Vandeloo.

Vandeloo is enthusiastic about being part of Downtown’s revitalization. “We’re really excited to be a part of the new growth that’s happening downtown,” he said. “I can see the change and feel the energy every time I’m there.”

Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at wdelaney@moderncities.com.