I realize that I’ve been a little slack with my posts recently. Its not been intentional. 50 hour work weeks blow. But on the bright side, I’m hoping to have the shanty paid off in two years!! For you reading enjoyment, here’s a Q & A with James Vrabel, part owner of the Pour House at Grand Central, located in Tampa, FL. Enjoy!! And frequent his establishment. Please!!
- What got you into microbrews?
Susan (James’ wife) and I took a trip to London back in 2006 and it was a real eye opener to beer beyond macros. We drank a lot of Fullers ESB and London Pride that trip. When we got back stateside, we started looking for great beers. My buddy Dave and I started working towards IPAs while Susan was a hefeweissen drinker. We started frequenting Tampa Bay Brewing Company and became members of their mug club. Their One Night Stand pale ale was one of my first US craft brews. That was the beginning of our beer journey.
- Why did you choose the Channelside District as a location for the Pourhouse?
Susan and I went on a trip to New York City in 2009. We weren’t really familiar with the craft beer scene up there but swung by a couple bars as it wasn’t the main purpose of our trip. We’ve been in Tampa since 2000 and had forgotten about simple bars. We’re from Pittsburgh originally and there’s a ton of local bars there. NYC reminded us of that. At the time, Florida only had nightclubs and restaurants that happen to serve beer (with a few exceptions). NYC made us excited about bringing that idea to Florida. I work a day job (still do) in Orlando and car pool with my Pour House business partner, Scott Nietzel. As we drove to work the Monday after my NYC trip, I explained how cool the bar scene was there. I offhandedly said, “I wish I could do something down here like that”. Scott listened intently but it was just casual conversation. Scott owns Wine Design, a wine shop in Channelside and lives in the Channel District. He’s a firm believer in the district’s potential (as I do). So a week after we spoke in that morning car pool, Scott came back to me and asked if I still was passionate about doing a bar. I told him I was still interested but a bit taken aback when he said he’d found a spot and already had been talking to the building management about leasing. Scott doesn’t mess around! So we started talking to Grand Central and at the time, that was the complex that felt like it had the most life to it.
- What would you tell the entrepreneur about opening a microbrew pub?
I’d tell anyone interested in opening any business to be passionate about what you do and the rest will come with time. I didn’t know anything about coolers or beer systems before starting Pour House but I have a passion for craft beer. People that come to your business pick up on that passion and get excited about it with you. If you’re just in it for the money, it’s going to show. I’ve seen a strange shift in craft beer since we opened in 2010. It’s becoming the flavor of the week and I see a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon. If you’re going to open any type of business, you’ve got to have passion. That passion will carry you though the rough times. I had many 4AM closings and 6AM Sunday mornings at Pour House where you wonder why you got into this in the first place. You can always come back to your initial passion and get excited again.
- Is there a beer you wish you could get in Florida but haven’t been able to?
There’s TONS of craft left to come to Florida. Founders, Three Floyds, Moylans, Russian River, Bear Republic, Firestone Walker, Alesmith, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey just to name a few. We travel a lot for our day jobs and we were always impressed by the beer selection in other states. However, as great breweries keep coming to Florida, it’s more difficult to impress us lately. I think more importantly than what we could bring into the state is creating our own local beer scene in Tampa. Cigar City has lent a great deal of credibility to Florida craft beer. Now Dunedin [Brewery] is doing some new crazy stuff, Bob at Saint Somewhere is making incredible Belgians and 7enth Sun is brewing some very tasty beers. So yes, I’m excited about bringing new brands into Florida but I’m more excited about Drinking Local. The more the merrier.
Again, take some time to visit Pour House at Grand Central. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Great people. Great owners. Fantastic beer selection.
- Brewpub Review: The Pour House at Grand Central (suwanneerefugee.com)
- Pilgrimage to Swamp Head Brewery (suwanneerefugee.com)
- Tampa Bay Beer Week (gotheretravel.wordpress.com)