Ron Gamble has worn many hats; he was a naval aviator, a contributor to half-a-dozen high-tech startups, a home brewer and finally a head brewer. Over the past six years, Ron has honed his skill at the brew kettle at a variety of operations and is now using his skills to open his own brewery on Jacksonville’s Southside. Gamble’s Veterans United Craft Brewery will welcome the public into its tap room for the first time on Friday, August 22.
The brewery is the culmination of a dream that began over a decade ago when Gamble’s wife Sheryl gave him a True Brew kit and a few books on brewing in 1999. Gamble, the holder of a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Virginia Tech, enjoyed experimenting with the kit and quickly advanced from extract brewing to full mash.
“At a certain point,” Gamble explained. “I found I was more excited about beer and beer-making than high-tech.” So, in 2007, he began working as a brewer at a local brew pub and began the path to opening his own brewery.
As his skills sharpened, Gamble decided he wanted to get a formal education in brewing. He looked into the brewing programs at the University of California, Davis and the Siebel Institute. Ultimately, he decided on Siebel because of the institute’s German education component. He graduated from the Master Brewer program and set about looking for work in the exploding craft brewing industry.
“Going to brew school was like going to college,” Gamble said. “You learn a little, but don’t actually learn a lot until you get out and apply it.” And apply his knowledge Gamble did. Over the next few years he moved from being the brewer at a small brew pub to brew master at New England regional brewery Wachusett Brewing Company.
In 2012, Gamble returned to Jacksonville where he was stationed while serving as a naval aviator attached to the USS Forrestal. The goal of the move was to secure a location, begin the process of building his brand and opening his dream brewery.
“This [Jacksonville] is a wide open market,” Gamble said of his decision to open a brewery in the River City. Jacksonville, in his opinion, has the potential to be a major craft beer powerhouse in Florida. “I’m tired of hearing about Tampa. I want this area to be known [for craft beer].”
Gamble’s new brewery will brew on a 20-barrel, domestically-built brewing system and use 40-barrel fermenters. His plan is to keg his beer for distribution to local bars and restaurants and, soon after opening, can his beers for package and grocery store distribution. Mike Carver has been brought on to take on head brewer duties and Champion Brands, who also distributes Intuition Ale Works, Aardwolf Brewing Company and Pinglehead Brewing Company, will distribute beer for Veterans United.
But, brewing beer is not the only goal Gamble has for his new business. As part of his outreach to the community, Gamble plans to work closely with the local veteran community. To that end, Bob Buehn, a former squadron-mate of Gamble’s, was brought on board as Military and Veterans liaison. Buehn’s task is to seek out ways to give back to the community and the military, “in a focused way.”
The military thread runs through much of what the brewery does even down to the name and logo. The name, Veterans United Craft Brewing is a nod to, “…taking the passion and enthusiasm from when I was serving,” Gamble said. The logo prominently features aviator’s wings and a nautical star. Both nods to Gamble’s service in the Navy.
“Beer is an every person’s drink. It is a social lubricant,” said Gamble. “I want to be sure as a brewer we are doing the right things.”
With a passion for brewing and a keen eye for precision and quality, Gamble seems to have hit on a winning recipe. Taste the fruits of his labors for yourself at the grand opening of his brewery and tap room Friday, August 22 beginning at 5:00 p.m. The festivities will include food truck, live music and brewery tours.
Veterans United Craft Brewery
8999 Western Way
Jacksonville, FL 32256
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