by Tim Gilmore, 8/7/2014
The brewery building’s a run-down warehouse on West 16th Street at Barnett Street in Durkeeville, the early black neighborhood where the city’s first public housing projects were built in the late 1930s. The Jax Brewing Company started making Jax Beer here in 1913. During Prohibition, they changed their name to Jax Ice & Cold Storage Company, but resumed the original name at the end of Prohibition in 1933. The brewery stopped making beer for good in 1956 when it sold its copyright to the Jackson Brewing Company of New Orleans. By then, Stanley Kowalski and his pals had been drinking Jax in New Orleans in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire since the play first ran nine years before. Now the 100 year-old brewery building operates as a recycling center for electronic waste.
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One night about 1:30 a.m., Mike Collins listed to starboard across the living room of his house trailer on Winners Circle, just north of the Intracoastal Waterway near the beach. He had already downed a bottle and a half of cheap Cabernet. He clambered to the cabinets and stared down the unopened bottle of Jax Bock brewed in 1953 in some neighborhood he’d never visited on the other side of town. The bottle had been a Christmas present from his father-in-law five years ago. Having no idea why, he grabbed the bottle opener and quickly swigged the 57 year-old beer. He didn’t care. Not until the morning.