Meet the Brewers: Eric Richardson of R Bar Brewing

R Bar's brewer is moving out of the kitchen and into much bigger digs.

click to enlarge Meet the Brewers: Eric Richardson of R Bar Brewing - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Meet the Brewers: Eric Richardson of R Bar Brewing

Eric Richardson fell into his job brewing beer for Treasure Island’s R Bar by being in the right place at the right time — and technically doing the wrong thing. While working as a cook at the eatery and bar, a broken burner ring at home facilitated the homebrewer bringing his batches into the restaurant’s kitchen while he was on the clock.

“Really, I was slacking off brewing when I was supposed to be working,” he says.

R Bar owner Robert Hughes became intrigued by what Richardson was doing. He asked for a taste, and in 2013 put three of Richardson’s beers on tap for his patrons. R Bar now features six in-house varieties from the brewer’s 20-gallon system (upgraded from 10 gallons), ranging from the ubiquitous IPA and pale ale to a red IPA, cream ale, porter and brown ale.

“We spent $7,000 [on the brewing system], and I was a little worried, wondering how long it would take to earn that out, and it happened immediately,” says Richardson. “I never thought I would be doing this for a living. I thought it might be a cool idea, every homebrewer probably thinks it would be cool, but that it could never really happen. I just got lucky.”

Richardson and Hughes are confident they can press their luck a bit further with Cage Brewing, a new production facility and tasting room Hughes is outfitting at 2001 First Ave. S. in St. Pete’s Grand Central District. Slated to open in late July or early August, Cage will find Richardson upgrading from R Bar’s 20-gallon brewery to one with a capacity of seven barrels, or more than 220 gallons. The brewer hopes to come out of the gate with at least 10 beers — nearly doubling his current offerings — and move up to 20 shortly thereafter.

Richardson says the ambition and scale of the new brewery occasionally worry him.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” he says. “Anything that gets screwed up, it’s all on me. If something mechanical happens with the system, it’s on me. If people don’t like the beer, that’s on me.”

He adds, though, that the Bay area’s tightly knit and notably cooperative brewing community has thrown its support behind the new venture, and that he knows he can count on it for help, advice and the knowledge of experience.

“People are really good about helping out. Plus, when we started selling beer here, I was nervous about that, too. Once I get a few batches in, it’s like anything else.”

Favorite local beer that isn’t his: “I really like Cycle, and Coppertail. And of course Cigar City, those guys are my heroes. But my favorite in Pinellas is definitely Cycle. They make good, hoppy beers.”

His signature R Bar beer: “Probably the porter. It’s one of our best-selling beers.”

R Bar
245 108th Ave., Treasure Island

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