Joey Redner

Craft Beer Titan

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click to enlarge Joey Redner - Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Photo by Heidi Kurpiela
Joey Redner

Stepping out of the shadow of his notorious father (he’s the son of Mons Venus strip club owner Joe Redner), Joey Redner has made a name for himself as a craft beer entrepreneur and all-around good guy. The owner of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, Redner led the way in a Bay area brewery scene that is now winning national attention. In 2013, Cigar City was named the fourth best brewery in the world by, and its Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout has won major awards on the way to becoming an insanely hot commodity for brew geeks the world over. (Hunahpu’s March 2014 release party drew such huge crowds that the beer ran out, and the ensuing uproar led Redner to cancel future parties.) Redner, 41, has a history of hard work in the industry. As the owner of Yeoman’s Pub on Davis Islands from 2002 to 2005, he greatly expanded the beer offerings and made the bar a relevant player on the craft beer scene. He followed that up with a run as a salesman for Dunedin Brewery before leaving in 2008 to launch Cigar City. One of his first moves was hiring Wayne Wambles, an award-winning brewmaster from a rising brewery in North Carolina. Together the pair has brought a string of popular beers (Jai-Alai IPA, Jose Marti American Porter, etc.) to market. In addition to the original Cigar City Tasting Room on Dale Mabry in Tampa, his operation has expanded to include brewpubs at Tampa International Airport (the first such in the nation) and in the Northdale area of Tampa. When he’s not toiling away at Cigar City or earning kudos from the craft beer industry, Redner, who lives in Tampa’s Riverbend neighborhood, can be found walking Lowry Park or motoring down the Hillsborough River in a boat with his four daughters and wife, Jennifer. On hot summer days, you’ll catch him anchored off Beer Can Island with a cold one in his hands.

Where all Tampa Bay newbies must go: Ybor City. “It speaks to Tampa’s roots. You’ve got the old cigar factories and The Columbia, which is a nice entryway into Tampa. The cuisine exists outside of the chains. Ybor in general exists outside of the chains.”

The Cigar City brews he loves best: Maduro Brown Ale and Puppy’s Breath. “I generally favor porters and brown ales. I like the rich slightly sweet maltiness of Maduro or Puppy’s Breath.”

Where the cool kids go to drink: American Legion Post 111 in Seminole Heights. “A lot of my brewery staff hangs out there. They love that place. It’s weird. You’ve got old military vets and 23-year-old hipsters. It’s an interesting dichotomy.”

Where a brewer goes to drink: Dunedin Brewery. “That’s the classic brew club experience. It’s old school. I tend to go to businesses similar to mine where I can shut my brain off and not have to think about the minutiae.”

The restaurant that’s dear to his heart: Gino’s Restaurant and Bar in Tampa.
“It’s this little Italian restaurant. Every Wednesday night they have $2.50 microbrews. They’ve been doing that since I was in high school — and I’m old. Seriously. They’ve got the best eggplant parm in the city in my opinion. My wife loves it.”

Where his kids beg to go for ice cream: Bo’s Ice Cream. “They like the vanilla cones with sprinkles. They’re young, so they haven’t branched out yet.”

Where he goes to feel like a kid again: The Bro Bowl. “I lived there as a kid. It represents the first tentative steps of freedom, being able to choose what to do on my own. For a two-year period I was there a good part of every day. I still skateboard a little bit, even though I’m 41 and it’s ridiculous.”

Where he goes to eat like a kid again: Mel’s Hot Dogs. “They serve old school Chicago-style hotdogs. Once or twice a year I’ve got to go down there and grab a hot dog. I get nostalgic for that place.”

The BBQ joints he can’t live without: Holy Hog, Cally’s Sticky Bones and Konan BBQ. “I eat a lot of BBQ. Holy Hog started out really small and it just exploded. Cally’s is consistently great and Konan’s is this tiny place with two seats inside. They don’t always have everything, but what they do have is always awesome.”

The best place for fresh-squeezed OJ: Bearss Groves. “Oh god, it’s amazing. Before I changed the way I eat I’d be all about that orange juice.”

Where he recommends you go on a date: Rooster & The Till. “It’s intimate and they serve oysters, which are supposed to be an aphrodisiac, so there you go.”

Where he goes for downhome cooking: Martha’s Place in Tampa. “They do a chicken cutlet breakfast. What more can I say?”

Where he goes to hear Southern jam bands: Skipper’s Smokehouse. “It’s a standard-bearer for music in the area. It’s a fun venue. For me it’s about how laid-back can you get? Can you show up in flip-flops and not feel under-dressed? It’s got a very Key West feel.”

Where he goes to hear big acts: Jannus Live.  “Jannus feels like you’re at a real concert. The way it’s laid out is so unique … you walk down an alley, turn a corner and there’s a concert venue in the middle of these buildings.”

Where he likes to drop anchor: Beer Can Island. “It’s a nice cool drive. In season there’s a food boat. This guy beaches his boat and sells sandwiches and other stuff from it. It’s a cool experience, everyone out there just drinking and relaxing.”

The Florida myth he’d like to clear up now: Alligators are everywhere. “People have this perception that alligators are falling from the trees down here. I’m like, ‘I can take you to see some alligators if you like, but I very seldom trip on them.’”

Where he goes to decompress: Lowry Park. “I’m talking about the park across from the zoo, not the zoo. In some ways it’s a lot like Central Park, though not nearly as grand. You’ve got the city all around you, nice trails and a brook that runs through it. I love to walk through the park. It’s a peaceful spot.”

The local celebrity he’d like to immortalize with a brew: Dr. Paul Bearer (played by Dick Bennick Sr.). “He used to do the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature on local television. He’d play these cheesy horror movies with cheesy puns and bits. I loved him as a kid. I wish I could get in touch with his family. I’d love to do a Dr. Paul Bearer beer.”

The politician who exceeded his expectations: Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “I’m a big fan. I think he’s done a really good job. He’s been a lot more visionary than I thought he’d be. He’s a big-picture thinker. He understands what it takes to grow a vibrant community. I tip my hat to him.”

The drinking event he waits all year for: The Brewer’s Ball at the Cuban Club. “It’s in conjunction with the Best Florida Beer Championship. I was going to this before I was a brewer. There’s no other craft beer industry event quite like it. You just serve yourself! They sell tickets to the public, but you’ll be outnumbered by brewer industry people, and you know each beer will be great because it’s had to win a gold medal to be there.”

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