Ulele, the latest Tampa foodie destination from iconic local restaurateur Richard Gonzmart’s Columbia Restaurant Group, will open on August 26. It’s the ultimate payoff for a heady anticipatory buzz that’s been building for the better part of a year.
But that’s only a fraction of the time head brewer Tim Shackton has been working, refining and waiting to share his beers with equally excited Bay area craft-brew fanatics.
“Today is my two-year anniversary,” he says, on the phone from the restaurant, where the finishing touches are still being put into place. “We’ve been designing and planning our recipes the entire time.”
Shackton, an avid homebrewer, calls his personal approach to beer-making “methodical,” and much of what Ulele’s beers will have to offer is the result of countless hours spent making test batches, to produce consistency as well as quality.
“You want people to come in and drink your beer one day, and then come in a year later and have the beer taste exactly the same as they remember,” he says. “That’s a critical challenge for brewers.”
A Marine veteran who served in Desert Storm, Shackton remembers coming home to Clearwater, walking into a brewpub and deciding on the spot that brewing was his future. He eventually found a career at Hops, one of the country’s first restaurant chains to brew its own beer in-house, and spent years brewing and training new employees all over the state.
It was through a mutual acquaintance that he ended up collaborating with one of West Central Florida’s most recognizable names in food.
“The Gonzmarts are all about family, and I was fortunate enough to share with them a friend who has worked for them for many years,” Shackton says. “He overheard that they were looking for a brewmaster, and so I got a phone call.”
Shackton walked the historic Tampa Heights river pumphouse that would become Ulele’s home when it was little more than a shell, and came on board early to help design and lay out the restaurant’s 15-barrel brewhouse. In addition to his experience, Shackton brought along his recipes; he’s a bit cagey about exactly what beers Ulele will be featuring upon opening, but confirms there will be half a dozen brews available — five of which will be restaurant standards, with a sixth seasonal style, the first an Oktoberfest.
“What we’re offering that no other brewery in the area, to my knowledge, is that all of our beers will adhere to the Reinheitsgebot German purity law — we just use water, hops and malt,” says Shackton. “No additives, no clarifying agents. Our consistency will be in the purity.”
Favorite local beer that’s not his: “I have to say it’s hard to put me in a corner on that one, only because ‘favorite’ is such an open-ended statement — it’s all relative to different things, your mood, the season. I’m a big, big fan of locally brewed beers. If you looked in my refrigerator at home, you’d find Cigar City, Saint Somewhere, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, all kinds of stuff.”
His signature Ulele beer: “Well, there’s one particular style that we’re going to carry that I’m very fond of, that’s our mixed-berry fruit lager. I call it wedding beer, because 12 years ago I brewed it for a friend who was getting married, and everybody who was at that wedding loved it, and the ones that got married after that all asked me to brew it for their own weddings. A lot of berry beers are typically over the top with fruit — this is going to be slightly tart, and not overpowering. Very, eminently drinkable.”
1810 N. Highland Ave., Tampa