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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Something good brewing in Brandon

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His friends and coworkers at Brandon High School know Robert Maestas as a coach of the boys and girls cross country teams, and as a teacher in the JROTC program.

He is affable, accomplished and the picture of fitness.

But none of those traits helped a bit recently in Ybor City at an event called the Brewer’s Ball. There, it was all about the taste. Fortunately, Maestas has that part down too. Along with friend and neighbor Clay Hogue, Maestas has gotten hooked on home brewing beer. At the Brewer’s Ball in March, their special bock lager Dos Pistolas won its division against 22 other home-brewers.

Last Saturday at Rapps Brewing in Seminole, Dos Pistolas was officially released at a coming out party.

“It’s kind of funny,” Maestas said, recalling the victory in Ybor. “They were getting ready to announce the winners and I figured they would do it in 3-2-1 order – you know, third-place would be announced first, and so on.

“So they announced Dos Pistolas and I figured, ‘Aww, we got third place. Well, that’s not too bad.’ So I’m going up to the stage and everybody is congratulating us and stuff, and then it hit me. Oh, wow, we won!”

Let me give you full disclosure here. I have known Maestas since he came to Brandon 10 years ago. He coached my sons in cross country and my wife continues to volunteer for the team. I was at a party at his house seven or eight years ago, I guess, when he showed off his home-brewing setup. But that was the last I heard of it until news of this competition broke.

That was my mistake. Important stories like this need to followed closely.

Oh, and sampled. I’m still working on that.

I’ll tell you what, though, this concoction sounds special.

“We figured we would get a little crazy with it,” Maestas said. “During the primary fermenting process we put in oak chips until we got the taste the way we wanted it. Then in the secondary phase, we swapped out those chips with new oak chips that had been soaking in tequila.

“The cool thing about craft beer is that the limits of what you can do are really just the limits of your imagination.”

The equipment can run as little as a couple of hundred bucks to much more. Maestas said he spent about $1,500 on his setup, and he is not alone. Home-brewing is increasing in popularity throughout the area, and it can turn out to be much more than just a hobby.

If you hit on the right blend and taste, you might be tempted to start your own microbrewery. Maestas said that thought has crossed his mind.

“It would be something, wouldn’t it?” he said.

For now, though, he will continue patrolling the halls at Brandon High and selling runners on the joys of daily long-distance workouts. A new school year is about to begin and cross country season is about to start.

His imagination won’t stop working though.

“We’ve got this idea for a cream ale,” he said.

That’s a story we’ll definitely have stay with.

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