CARROLLWOOD — Tim Ogden’s home-brewing hobby proved so popular with friends, he had to step up production to meet the growing demand.
Soon his initial weekly production of 5 gallons doubled, then tripled to quench the thirsts of buddies who gathered on Sundays to “drink, watch football, play poker; regular guy stuff,” Ogden said.
That experience, coupled with extensive research, a brewing academy scholarship and assistance from Tampa’s “brewing community,” eventually led to a position as head brewer at Cigar City Brewpub, which opened April 1.
Ogden, 36, works with state-of-the-art equipment — and, again, finds himself working hard to satisfy a growing thirst for his craft beer.
For Ogden, necessity was the mother of invention. After trading his hometown of Bangor, Maine, for Tampa in 1999, he missed the ubiquitous selection of beers from small regional breweries. “If you go to any gas station in New England you can find all the local craft beers,” he said. In the late 1990s, however, Florida’s strict laws meant few bottled beers from craft brewers were available on local shelves.
“If you want to drink at home, it’s either buy what’s available at the store or learn how to make beer. So I learned how to make beer,” he said. “It was one of those hobbies I quickly fell in love with.”
Brewing for himself and his football friends, Ogden found even if he made 5-gallon batches of his popular brew three days a week, not a single bottle remained after Sunday’s NFL games. “During football season it just didn’t happen,” he said.
That’s when he came to a realization: “If I’m trying to figure out a way to brew four days a week as a hobby, maybe I should really consider making a push, seeing what I could do to break into the industry,” he said.
Those he met along the way included the late John G. Doble III, cofounder and brewmaster of Ybor City’s Tampa Bay Brewing Co. A mentor of sorts, Doble fielded questions from Ogden when the novice home-brewer was stumped. “Most of the time he would say, ‘That’s not an over-the-phone kind of question and answer. Why don’t you come down to the pub and we’ll talk about it over a pint.’ He always looked really, really busy, but he always took time to teach me,” Ogden said of the man everyone called “Johnny.’’
Other local brewers also were helpful. “I really feel the local brewing community really helped shape me as a brewer,” he said.
In 2001, Ogden he took a kitchen job at the then-popular Hops Grill and Bar on South Dale Mabry Highway, just to see if he could leverage it into an entry-level position in the on-site micro-brewery. “It didn’t work out for me, but I made a lot of great connections,” including one that later would lead him back to Hops.
In 2006, Bryan Harris, director of brewing operations at the South Tampa Hops, gave Ogden his first paying job as a brewer. But Clearwater-based Hops soon began closing some of its locations, including the one on Dale Mabry near Kennedy Boulevard in 1993.
In 2007, Ogden was awarded the annual scholarship named for his former mentor, the German-born Doble, who died in 2003 at age 37. The full-tuition scholarship was to the World Brewing Academy Concise Course in Brewing Technology at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, America’s oldest brewing school. “It really gave me a lot of drive. I learned a lot,” Ogden said.
Late last year, after reaching out to another brewing contact, Joey Redner, Ogden joined Cigar City Brewing as it was preparing to open a Carrollwood brew pub. “I had heard Joey had a location and was building a brew pub,” Ogden said. “One day we were having a couple beers and I just asked him, ‘Who’s your brewer going to be?’
ho founded Cigar City Brewery in 2008, replied, “I don’t know, you want to do it? Do whatever you want, do it any way you want.”
Ogden operates the company’s three-barrel brew house at the 15491 N. Dale Mabry location, a former TGI Fridays restaurant. Production includes a variety of hand-crafted beers, from his Imperial Stout with a 9.3 percent alcohol content to Sunshine Ale, a light refreshing brew made from German hops.
Customer response has been great, Ogden said. “I can’t make too much beer here; it’s impossible. Basically, I empty a tank and fill it back up.”
Just as when he made beer for those Sunday football-watching buddies.
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