Brewing beer is a lot like making soup. It's possible to throw ingredients together from a recipe and, providing the directions were followed, make a decent product. But to get a chef-worthy, restaurant-quality result, time and practice are two essential components.
Unless you're Zac Myers.
"I was hooked right away," he said.
Myers owns Zeke's Brewing, the Brandon area's newest brewery. And his meteoric rise in the industry is nothing short of astounding.
"Yeah, you could definitely say I've come a long way in a short time," he said with a chuckle.
Myers, 41, brewed his first batch of beer in April 2012 using malt extract, the easiest brewing method and one geared for beginners. But he jumped right into all-grain on his second try, a far more sophisticated technique. Myers was so pleased with his initial results that he began formulating a plan to open a brewery.
"I knew from about the third or fourth brew," Myers said. "That's when the light turned on. I kicked it into a different gear."
Myers went to work on creating unique recipes, incorporated his business and set up shop in a storage unit off Falkenburg Road just north of State Road 60. Zeke's Brewing opened last month.
"It's been quite a ride so far, but I'm just getting started."
Myers designed and installed nearly everything, including his mash tuns, grain mill, brew kettles, fermentation frames, a small bar and the cooling unit. And he did it all while working a full-time in sales job.
"I usually get up around 7 a.m. and work my job until 5 o'clock," he said. "Then I head over to the brewery and I'm there until 10. But I love it."
Myers is turning the heads of some serious names in the beer community. He recently signed a contract with Pepin Distributing, meaning the guy who brewed his first extract batch less than a year and a half ago will be coming to a tap near you soon.
Distribution "obviously gives you the opportunity to succeed," he said, "but the bottom line is you have to perform, time and time again."
Myers' crush on brewing stems from a love of chemistry. After graduating from Northwest Missouri State with a degree in international business, he spent three years studying research chemistry at University of South Florida..
"It helps when it comes to things like understanding the crushed barley and how you want to pull things out of it and things like pH levels," he said. "Or things like how salts might be utilized. You have several salts around the world that people want to introduce into the water supply to match the water profile in other places."
Myers even discovered a molecule, which he nicknamed Emma-4-fluoro after a friend's daughter, while at USF.
"It's not an earth-shattering discovery whatsoever," Myers said, "but it is a tool or a building block that other chemists can use. And they have, so that's exciting."
Although his chemistry background helps, Myers said it's not a must in the brewing industry.
"There are plenty of guys who never opened a chemistry book but just know how to brew," he said. "It's a lot of technique and a lot of attention to detail. You screw up one small thing and you can really put your foot in it."
Zeke's Brewing features a small tasting room, but Myers is focusing more on the production side of the brewery. And with Booth's Brewing supplies next door and Three Palms Brewery a stone's throw away, the Brandon area is witnessing a burgeoning brewing scene.
"Between the three of us — then you throw in places like the Stein & Vine and Brass Tap — I think this Brandon, Riverview area has some real potential," Myers said. "There's no reason to have to hop on the Crosstown to go and find a quality beer."
Three Palms is gaining a foothold in area bars, and Myers hopes to have his beer in local taverns by September. Not bad for a guy who dropped his first hop sack into a kettle last spring.
"Now I've made it to the dance," Myers said. "And I want to dance all night long."
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]