"I think it was inevitable,” says Doug Dozark of Tampa Bay’s burgeoning craft brewery scene. “There was really no way around it. Once craft beer passed 10 years of popularity elsewhere, it was officially not a fad, it was a trend that was coming. In 2009, there were breweries that survived the recession and by 2012, it was obvious.”
Dozark’s Cycle Brewing could be seen as a harbinger of the Tampa Bay craft beer explosion. What began as a so-called “nanobrewery” at legendary Gulfport Mexican joint Peg’s Cantina has become synonymous with the origins of Pinellas’ brewing scene, thanks in no small part to the local reception (and national exposure through craft beer websites) of Cycle’s low-alcohol “session” IPA Fixie, a beer cited by many local brewers as their favorite day-to-day quaff. Many beer drinkers were first introduced to the idea of local brews while having a meal at Peg’s, and Dozark’s stand-alone Cycle brewpub is just about to celebrate its first full year of providing Dozark’s brews to Rays fans, downtown mavens and an increasing amount of foot traffic along St. Pete’s Central Avenue.
“We get a lot more traffic [from Rays games] than you would think,” he says. “You can look at the weekends, and you can see it. It’s not night and day, but when they’re in town, our nights and our weekends are better.”
That doesn’t mean Cycle’s downtown brewpub — cash-only, stylishly industrial and accentuated with work by local artists — is gonna put in a bunch of flat-screens anytime soon. It’s about the furthest thing from a sports bar that one can imagine, much like its original home at a funky little Mexican restaurant was about as far from a microbrewery as anyone could envision.
“There are definitely times when I wish I could have my beer and watch the game," says Dozark, "but we’re not going to change what we are.”
Dozark’s commitment to doing things his own way was born out of his experiences working for others. He brewed at Cigar City before creating his own system, and while he’s grateful for the knowledge and opportunities that job afforded him, he’s happier working for himself, fashioning his own brews and being his own worst critic.
“I wanted to make beer that I enjoyed, and that took years and years of practice,” he says. “I made a whole lot of beer that I thought was just OK.”
But that doesn’t mean Cycle isn’t a team effort. Dozark is quick to credit his staff in large part for the brewpub’s success: “This isn’t about me — this is Cycle Brewing.”
While other local breweries are hurrying to expand to take advantage of the scene’s popularity, Dozark is allowing Cycle to evolve organically to fit his and his crew’s ethos.
“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.”
Favorite local beer that isn’t his:
“I really like Rapp’s Gose, it’s a great beer. I don’t get to see 7venth Sun a lot, but I really like their beers, especially their IPAs. If Cigar City does something interesting, I like to try it.”
His signature Cycle beer:
“I’d say we’re two-headed. The beers I’m most attached to are probably our barrel-aged beers, I like what we’ve done there and I feel like they’re world-class. And Fixie [session IPA] — if there is a flagship beer, that’s it... if we ever were going to expand, go into six-packs or something, that would be it.”
534 Central Ave., St. Petersburg