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The Hustle

Name: Robert Hughes (Cage Brewing)

Posted By Jaymi Butler

Robert Hughes didn't open Cage Brewing with the goal of becoming a millionaire. Instead, his vision was, and is, simply to make the best beer possible for his guests while earning a good, comfortable living. "We find if a brewery grows too fast just to make a lot of money, they sacrifice quality, and we are all about the quality of our beers," Hughes said. "We will continue to grow slowly and make great beer." And judging by Cage's loyal following among those who appreciate a delicious IPA, Hughes is well on his way to achieving his goal.

Years in Tampa Bay

I’ve been in business all around the area for 25 years.

Hustle (job)

I’m the owner of the microbrewery Cage Brewing.

What do you do?  

Even though my official title is owner, I do everything from managing the business to sweeping the floors.

Why do you do it?

I love working for myself and treating my employees with dignity and respect.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

We began our journey in the back of a small restaurant in Treasure Island called the R Bar & Grille. One of our cooks, who is now our head brewer, Eric Richardson, was a home brewer. He was boiling his wort on top of the restaurant’s gas stove when I asked him “What are you doing? You are supposed to be cooking.” He told me he was making beer so I asked him to give me a sample when it was finished. Well, that finished product was an awesome IPA, so as an owner, I came up with the idea of starting a brewpub. In the back of a tiny kitchen at the R Bar, we put together a 20-gallon brew stand and a makeshift fermentor. The federal government mandated we have a secure area for the brewery part so we built a chain-link fence, that was basically a cage, to block off the area to keep it secure. We tapped our first beer and the rest is history. We could not keep up with the demand, so we decided to build a larger brewery off-site and found this great property in St. Pete’s Grand Central District. So since we began our journey in a cage in the back of the restaurant, we decided to call the brewery Cage Brewing, and to this day we still cannot keep up with production.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

The misconception is that everyone sees me at night as an owner just walking around. They don’t know that I come into the brewery at 6 a.m. and do everything that makes our brewery a success. I do all of the quality control, keg treatments, tap cleaning, all repairs and daily maintenance along with all paperwork, bills, state and federal paperwork, social media and more.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

Putting up with all of the whining and complaining, yet keeping a smiling face.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

Someone once told me “if you don’t like working for the man, then become the man.” I did that, and I never looked back.

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