In the wee hours of Sept. 24, 2017, I watched Danielle Vergnaud and Matthew McKinnon get engaged outside of New World Brewery. The proposal happened just outside the beloved Ybor City bar, restaurant and music venue’s wrought iron gates, less than an hour after last call on New World’s last night of business after a 22-year-run in the historic district.
For years prior, I’d shared many a conversation, glance and clink of the pint glass with the residents of the historic district. From wherever my drunk ass was hiding, I felt lucky to watch the moment; seeing two people affirm their love for each other certainly made saying goodbye to my favorite bar sting just a tiny bit less.
New World has since re-emerged at a new location—and the residential development that forced the venue’s closure is still not open—but McKinnon and Vergnaud are bringing beer and community back to 1313 E. 8th Ave. with a new endeavor called Sky Puppy Brewing, which will live at the historic firehouse that shared a wall with New World's kitchen.
The loaded feelings that come with bringing a brewery back to the very address you loved for years is something the couple said they’ll unpack with Creative Loafing Tampa Bay in the days to come, but for now, Matthew and Danielle wanted to be clear that there’s no hard opening date or range set for the project.
“Because of the historical nature of Casa Bomberos Number 2 we are currently in a holding period on projection dates,” the couple wrote in an email to CL. The building Sky Puppy is moving into was built in 1892 and was home to the second fire house of Tampa Bay. The couple told CL it was waiting to hear back from builders and architects sometime this week.
Full disclosure: I have a past with McKinnon. We worked downtown Tampa’s Oktoberfest festivals together at a pre-development Water Works Park and continued to manage Oktoberfest’s bar operations when the party moved to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. I’ve been in the kitchen of his Ybor City loft and sipped on the many different beers that earned him more than 40 medals on the state home brew circuit, and I have been a visitor to both Coppertail, where in 2015 McKinnon landed his second full-time professional brewing job, and TBBCo. where he’s tended bar.
I am a fan of his work, but McKinnon insists that it’s never been just him behind the beers he makes.
“I have been a part of various teams throughout the years that have made award winning beer,” he wrote. He does not believe that in a production setting that any one person is responsible for an award winning beer. “Each person who makes contact during or downstream of recipe development with a batch of liquid that is deemed deserving of a medal is part of the magic, these accolades are shared or should be.”
That’s why I’m excited to learn what he and Danielle—a leader and influential person who’s managed teams of 30-plus people in her retail industry job as a visual merchandising manager for 17 years—have in store for the neighborhood.
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