Randy Gailit liked to spend his Saturday mornings doing crafts.
Craft beers, to be exact.
In the garage of his Meadow Pointe home, he meticulously measures, mixes and mashes, making sure the right ingredients are producing the perfect results for what he hopes will be a tasty craft beverage.
“It’s like a science class,” he says.
He won’t know for weeks, in most cases, as the process is just beginning. Sometimes, he needs three weeks for his concoctions to ferment. Other times, depending on the style of beer, the fermenting process can take eight weeks or more.
Patience is a virtue, and in Gailit’s cased, his patience is rewarded with a cold, tasty beer.
Gailit and his one-man Wiregrass Brewing Company will be one of the many returning brewers at this weekend’s New Tampa Brew Fest, which is again being held at the Venetian at St. Mark The Evangelist Catholic Church in New Tampa today at 6 p.m..
While the process for a small home brewer can take a while, don’t worry — the beers Gailit will be bringing for those at the Brew Fest have long been fused in his garage, and will be ready to sample at the event, which raises money for causes supported by the New Tampa Noon Rotary Club.
Like last year, he is bringing his Ginger Island Ale, which he says is his most popular beer, and a tasty Rotary Red Ale, named for Gailit’s affiliation with the Land O’Lakes Rotary Club, a spinoff from the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon.
In a nod to the upcoming holiday season, Gailit also has brewed a Peppermint Porter for the event, and will have a fourth drink to sample — a Strawberry Margarita Cider, the most popular cider he has brewed.
“I’m pretty happy with how they turned out,” Gailit says.
Gailit’s brewery is highly efficient, making amazing use of a third of his three-car garage’s space.
There are multiple refrigerators, an actual bar — with 4-5 beers usually on tap — and shelves filled with equipment, malts and yeasts, as well as a small room he built for the fermentation process.
Wiregrass Brewing doesn’t sell any of its beer, so the primary beneficiaries of Gailit’s weekend hobby are charities.
Gailit will provide beer at 5-6 charity events a year, like the New Tampa Brew Fest. He has provided the beverage for charities that work with a hospice in Land O’Lakes, for a cancer walk in Dunedin and a Wounded Warrior event in St. Petersburg.
And, in between the charity events, he shares his latest brews with the 100 or so people he works with at Mediagistic, a marketing and advertising agency in Tampa, and his neighbors who, at a recent party, went through four 5-gallon Cornelius kegs (the kind primarily used for soft drink fountain machines, as opposed to the larger barrel-style kegs).
“The garage door is always open,” he jokes.
Gailit has always enjoyed drinking beer, but when one of his friends was selling one-gallon home-brew kits, he decided to buy one. It ended up being the first item at the Wiregrass Brewing Company — but it sat on a shelf in his garage for two years.
It wasn’t until he signed up for a brewing class at the Land O’Lakes World of Beer that he says he finally cracked it open.
“I was in there one day and they were doing the class, and I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this,’’’ he said. “So I did it, and it was a lot of fun. I’ve been brewing ever since.”
A former restaurant owner in Pennsylvania, Gailit has been mulling for a while now about moving his home brewing company into a bigger building, but he says the right space at the right price hasn’t presented itself yet.
And that’s fine, he adds. His Saturday mornings are quiet and relaxing, and the results of his efforts makes those around him happy. Being able to help worthwhile charities is simply an added bonus.
“No matter where I do it, it’s something I really enjoy,” he says. “I’m glad everyone seems to like it.”
For additional information about Gailit’s home brewery, search “Wiregrass Brewing Company” on Facebook.