“A lot of our decisions and goals are lifestyle-oriented, as opposed to production, number of barrels, regional status and all that,” he says. “This is a profitable little business, and it allows us the lifestyle we want.”
That’s what Doug Dozark, founder and head brewer at Cycle Brewing, said in an interview with CL for our Meet The Brewers issue back in the summer of 2014.
Since then, Tampa Bay craft beer has exploded. The number of area breweries has more than doubled. The region’s biggest name, Cigar City, sold for a reported $60 million, and new rumors about who’s going to be acquired next pop up weekly. You can’t hardly walk into a bar that doesn’t have multiple hometown labels on tap or in the cooler.
Cycle hasn’t exactly been idle, either. Dozark, his wife/partner Tara and their tight-knit, familial crew have quietly built a reputation among dedicated beer aficionados for putting out some of the best product available anywhere, developing what Dozark figures is the state’s largest barrel-aging program along the way. Last September, Cycle was among seven breweries to produce a limited release aged in Jameson Irish Whiskey barrels — the malty, more-than-semi-sweet Buddy Shots — as part of the world-famous liquor brand’s Caskmates Drinking Buddies program. And just last month, one of the largest and most cred-heavy beer sites on the net, Ratebeer.com, named Cycle not just the top brewer in Florida, but also No. 2 in the world.
Given all that, one might assume that the brewery’s ambitions have grown along with its profile.
One would be wrong.
“That’s the way we set it up, and I’ve watched other breweries grow and said, ‘Hey, I can do that’ — there’s a little bit of jealousy there,” admits Dozark. “But it’s like, ‘Nope, nope, I don’t want to do that.’ You have to [compromise] a lot of what you want to do.”
“Everybody [here] is happy,” Tara adds. “We’re just so happy they’re happy, and we don’t want to change too much.”
Not that the team wasn’t honored (and taken completely by surprise) by the Ratebeer.com accolades, particularly because they’re the result of reviews by beer lovers from all over the world, as opposed to a small panel of judges. Unlike the bulk of craft breweries in existence, Cycle doesn’t put its beers up for medals in the various judged competitions that define so much of the scene’s hierarchy.
“It was definitely more satisfying,” Dozark says.
As for the Jameson Caskmates collaboration, Dozark still isn’t completely sure how it even happened, beyond hearing that a friend of someone employed at the marketing firm handling the account was a Cycle fan (“I wish I could tell you a better story,” he says with a laugh). If true, though, it’s another indicator that the brewery’s commitment to putting personal, employee and customer satisfaction first and foremost will continue to pay off.
“We have an opportunity to make, like, 1950s jobs,” marvels Dozark. “People can work here for 25 years, they get benefits, and then they can retire. That’s pretty neat. It seems so backwards to me that we’re the ones doing that.”