LAND O’ LAKES — Friends Mark Pizzurro, Pete Abreut and Joe Traina weren’t thinking about helping to revitalize their community or supporting local businesses when they decided to open a craft beer brewery.
“We’d been brewing beer in my garage for about five years, and we just wanted to take it to the next level,” Abreut said.
The owner of the CrossFit En Fuego gymnasium at 3320 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Abreut noticed the 1903 Spanish-style house next door to the gym was vacant. He approached the owner about converting it into a brewery, tap room and beer garden.
Now the three men are being credited with playing a crucial role in what the Pasco County commissioners hope will lead to the revitalization of U.S. 41.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit for In the Loop Brewing at 3338 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
The approval was accompanied by kudos from commissioners who not only were glad to see a new small business take root in Land O’ Lakes but were pleased the three men were renovating a structure that had seen better days.
“This is a property that could have easily become another dilapidated eyesore in that community,” said Commissioner Mike Moore, who ran for the commission on an anti-blight platform. “This (brewery) is great for the redevelopment of U.S. 41 and Land O’ Lakes Boulevard. And craft breweries also promote tourism. I think it’s great day for that area; a great day for the community.”
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey noted that one revitalization project often leads to others.
“I think we’re going to see more and more folks (with plans to revitalize buildings) on the U.S. 41 corridor,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see the face of that area changing.”
After spending the past year bogged down by federal and state bureaucratic red tape, Traina said he was heartened to hear the commissioners’ comments. The partners are awaiting approval of their “brewer’s notice” by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and a temporary brewer’s license from Florida’s Department of Professional Regulation.
“Everyone in the area has been very excited about it,” Traina said, noting no neighbors opposed the plan. “We’ve gone out of our way to be good neighbors. We want the residents of Lake Padgett and Swann Lake to be patrons of ours.”
“It was nice to see how enthusiastic the commission was about our business,” Abreut said. “It wasn’t what we expected.”
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The property with 640 feet of shoreline along Lake Padgett “was perfect for what we want to do,” said Pizzurro.
The three men are doing many of the renovations to the two-story stucco home themselves.
The former kitchen will serve as the tap room while the living room will be outfitted with pub seating and antique travel memorabilia. The rooms upstairs will be reserved for private parties with food brought in from local restaurants such as nearby Hungry Harry’s Family Bar-B-Que and Capital Tacos.
A renovated storage shed will house the brewery. And the expansive back yard shaded by live oak trees will be transformed into a family-friendly, pet-friendly, 7,000-square-foot beer garden.
In the Loop Brewing is the culmination of a dream sparked by the purchase of a basic home-brewing kit.
“Pete (Abruet) and I have been friends a long time. We’ve lived across the street from each other on Cherbourg Loop (in Land O’ Lakes) for 10 years,” Traina said.
Abreut, a former Hillsborough County firefighter, recruited fellow firefighter Pizzurro to join the venture.
“For me, it became a passion,” Pizzurro said. “I built a 10-gallon brew system and began brewing beer from scratch. When we made our first all-grain beer, people loved it.”
After creating a number of beer recipes, the trio decided it was time to move the brewery out of Abreut’s garage and share their concoctions with the community.
They hope to welcome the first In the Loop Brewing customers in March. Initially, In the Loop Brewing will offer five types of beer brewed on the property including ales, lagers and a vanilla espresso porter made from leftover coffee beans provided by Zeal Coffee Roasters in Land O’ Lakes.
The men also plan to serve beers brewed by other local craft breweries, craft sodas and their own flavored carbonated water.
“We want to support local businesses and hope to become part of Tampa Brew Tours,” Traina said.
“There’s a beer revolution going on in the United States and we plan to be part of it,” Pizzurro said.
To follow the progress of In the Loop Brewing, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/InTheLoopBrewing/.