Bob Haa, Head Brewer

Bob is the mastermind behind the beer. When he’s not concocting new recipes or brewing, Bob enjoys traveling and the great outdoors. He grew up in Cullman, Alabama, studied Biology at St. Mary’s College in Southern Maryland and then Mycology (the scientific study of fungi) at the University of Minnesota.

Bob began home brewing as a hobby and took home several competitive medals in the process. His commercial brewing career started in 1998 in Minneapolis at Hops Bar & Brewery (founded in Tampa), and in 2004 he spent a year at St. Sebastiaan Brewery. Then, after eight years of selling craft beer in Florida, Bob was enticed to take the dive back into the production side here at Motorworks, and we’re forever grateful that he did.

Q: What sparked your interest in craft beer (any brew in particular that started it all)? What initially led you down this beer-soaked road?

A: My interest in craft beer started with imported beer. A friend had studied in England, and after hearing that I didn’t drink beer he took me to Mr. Dunderbak’s in Tampa (1988). Their selection of imported beer was amazing for the time; they even had the “American Craft” beer Anchor Steam. At first I didn’t care for the Guinness Extra Stout I had with lunch but a Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest proved to be the perfect gateway beer. Within six months I was buying Guinness Extra Stout by the case. By 1990 I had begun home brewing with my first kit from The Beer And WineMaker’s Pantry in Pinellas Park (the only home brew shop in the area at that time) and the rest is history.

Q: The only thing Bob likes as much as beer? Coffee. He hand-roasts 11 lbs. of it for each batch of Midnight Espresso, and he’s been roasting his own coffee at home for over a decade. We used to have a few “lots of cream, lots of sugar” types around here until they caved under the weight of Bob’s disappointment. We drink our coffee black here, and that’s just the way it is. So, Bob – what was your first big “coffee epiphany,” and what do you find most interesting about the intersection of the beer and coffee worlds?

A: I didn’t know about region-specific coffee until 1999 when I was running a brew pub near Minneapolis. I had my first cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe at a small coffee shop; prior to that I had no idea how rich, complex and fruity coffee could be. That small shop was Caribou Coffee, now an international coffee chain. Most people don’t realize how well coffee and beer go together. If you sip black coffee next to a pint of beer you might notice that the beer will taste especially bright. Coffee resets the palate, and coffee beans are often used during judging to smell between beers for largely the same effect.

Q: When you’re not brewing, what do you find yourself most often doing in your down time, if there’s such a thing as down time?

A: I love to travel, whether that’s camping and outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking or going to music festivals. My current travel goal is to visit Denmark next year, where my great grandparents emigrated from.

Q: If you had to distill your brewing “philosophy” to its purest, simplest form – what would it be?

A: Never stop learning or questioning; there is always something new to learn in this field.

Q: What do you find most exciting about the current state of craft beer?

A: The diversity of beer available from your local brewery has never been better, and I admire the creative spirit and collaborative effort that is constantly driving new ideas within the industry.

Q: Last but not least; what’s your go-to Motorworks brew? Any other local favorites you consistently find yourself reaching for?

A: Saisons / Farmhouse Ales are my favorite style, so our French Saison is my current choice, but I drink more of our Cruiser Kölsch since it’s available year-round. When I’m out I mostly drink hoppy pale ales from Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. or Green Bench.

Thanks for chatting, Bob!