BRANDON — Tom Himes has been a beer geek since the late 1980s when he was living in Germany working as a government contractor. He found his way to an Oktoberfest or two, but also enjoyed local festivals and tasting the local brews.
Ever the beer connoisseur, Himes was reading a story on craft beer and came across an article about how Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow founded Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, Mass., in 2010.
He knew that was the business he wanted to run and, despite some initial hesitation on their part, persuaded the partners to let him expand to Brandon.
Tom and his wife, Monica, are tentatively set to open the doors to the first Craft Beer Cellar in Florida at 11 a.m. Monday at 1937 W Brandon Blvd., near Chili's.
As store owners, the Himeses will be the head "beer geeks," a term the Craft Beer Cellar uses to describe its associates, but they also created five jobs for other beer geeks and invite customers to join the free beer geek club.
"The way craft beer is catching on, people are getting more experienced and trying new things," said Monica, who prefers the sour and lambic beers. "They are tired of all the yucky and mass produced beer."
Part of the job of beer geeks is to use their beer server certifications to educate the consumers on the more than 300 brands that will line the shelves of the more than 1,700 square feet of retail space. Craft Beer Cellar uses a strict definition of craft brewers as the Brewer's Association has outlined. So if your favorite beverage doesn't come from a small brewery that produces less than 6 million barrels a year or from one that is no more than 25 percent owned/controlled by a larger, noncraft brewer, don't expect to find it here.
Tom, whose taste skews toward the wheat beers, also wants to make it easy to find your selections.
"One focus is on local, Florida beers," he said, "but nothing is off-limits."
While the first wall you see when you enter the store will feature Florida flavors from the likes of 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg and Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, the rest of the store is organized in groups first by brewery, then by region — like West Coast, East Coast or no coast.
All the selections will be available in singles ranging from less than $2 to under $20. Selected kegs can be found in the cooler. In addition to craft beers, there will be wine, cider, nonalcoholic drinks and gluten-free options.
Look for the Craft Beer Cellar to host tastings down the road once the proper permits are in place. And don't be afraid to call ahead and ask a beer geek to throw a six-pack in the cooler for you or to hold a new arrival in your name.
Check facebook.com/cbcbrandon for store-opening updates and inventory information. The Craft Beer Cellar will open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Corner Bakery set to open at Regency
As we initially reported in August, another company has chosen Brandon for its first location in the Tampa Bay area and now the Corner Bakery Cafe has announced that it will open Jan. 20 at 2326 W Brandon Blvd. in Regency Square. The Dallas-based chain that was founded in Chicago in 1991 is a fast-casual restaurant that offers everything from pastries and breakfast to salads and sandwiches.
Thirteen more Corner Bakery Cafe locations are planned for the Tampa Bay area.
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