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Interview with Motorworks head brewer Bob Haa Jr.

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Bob Haa Jr. was named today as the head brewer at Motorworks Brewing Co., which is in the process of opening at 1014 9th St. W. in Bradenton. I spoke on the phone with Haa this afternoon.

“Brewing is a very satisfying job. Very creative,” Haa (pronounced Hay) says. “It’s also a lot of fun. It’s making beer for a job.”

Motorworks is one of three production craft breweries in the works in Bradenton, along with Darwin Brewing Co. at 803 17th Ave. W. and Little Giant Brewing at 301 7th St. E. A craft brewery produces beer in smaller volumes using techniques and ingredients that enhance, rather than lighten, flavor.

Bob Haa Jr., head brewer at Motorworks Brewing Co. in Bradenton. (Photo by Coby / Motorworks Brewing Co.)

Bob Haa Jr., head brewer at Motorworks Brewing Co. in Bradenton. (Photo by Coby / Motorworks Brewing Co.)

A native of Maryland, Haa says he's spent most of his life in Florida. He started homebrewing in 1990, but became interested in craft beer about two years before that. He said he never liked beer much before going to Mr. Dunderbak's in Tampa in the late 1980s. His growing interest in beer made him want to brew his own, but information wasn't as easy to come by back then. In fact, his first homebrew kit came with instructions on winemaking instead of brewing. He said his first batch didn't turn out that great. Good thing he didn't quit.

An accountant by training, he then took a brewing job with the Hops brewpub chain, training in Tampa before being given his own store in Maple Grove, Minn. He was promoted and helped the chain start brewing seasonal beers, work on quality control and more, he said. At the time Hops had 72 restaurants around the country, and he said he helped open several of them. He was laid off when the chain couldn't make its debt payments and essentially collapsed.

From there he began brewing part time at the short-lived Spring Hill brewpub St. Sebastian's Brewery, where he said he learned the Old World brewing techniques of its Belgian owners. (On a side note, Haa said St. Sebastian's Brewery is trying to open again.)

He switched to a different sector of the industry, taking a sales job with Micro Man Distributors. A distributor buys beer from breweries and sells it to retailers, per the three-tier system set up after Prohibition. Micro Man is an independent distributor, not affiliated with Bud, Miller or Coors, he said. It was at this job that he got to know Motorworks owners Denise and Frank Tschida, back when they owned a liquor store in Tarpon Springs that focused on craft beer.

He says his first goal at Motorworks is to focus on making quality beers, then work on ramping up volume. When asked what types of beers Motorworks will brew, Haa says pretty much anything is on the table.

"We're going to be a destination brewery," Haa said. He wants to be very creative with their beers, which will be packaged in kegs and cans for distribution; Motorworks will be partnering with Lakewood Ranch’s Gold Coast Eagle Distributing. He's looking forward to collaborating with other craft brewers.

"It's not so much a competition between local breweries," Haa said. "Brewers tend to help one another out." He says he's advised other breweries on getting started after opening several Hops brewpubs himself. He cited Cigar City Brewing in Tampa as a great source of help.

Like others working on starting production breweries in Sarasota and Manatee counties, Haa sees an area in need of locally produced beers. While a Micro Man sales rep., he said he was always asked for the local Florida beers.

He said Motorworks first pilot beers should be ready in about a month, with the brewery's taproom opening to the public about Thanksgiving. The full production brewery won't open until early 2014.

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Alan Shaw

Alan Shaw has been a fan of craft beer for more than a decade. He is partial to hops and has been an editor at the Herald-Tribune since 1997. He can be reached at (941) 361-4914, by email or mail at 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. Follow him at @alancshaw on Twitter and on Facebook.
Last modified: October 2, 2013
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