Couple turns love of beer making into business

The St. Augustine Record / Business News / St. Augustine, FL  -


Over the years, Ruth and Wyatt Hart have learned to enjoy a well-made beer. At the same time, they've learned to make beer well, and they're willing to share their experiences.

The Harts are the owners of St. Augustine Brewing Solutions at 215 W. King St. They sell all the equipment and ingredients needed for beginner and expert brewers alike. They also specialize in home wine making.

The business has been at its current location since 2014, but it really started a couple years earlier.

Ruth is retired from working for the state, and Wyatt is a retired Navy veteran. They knew they wanted to run their own business but started slowly by setting up at the local flea market.

Once they established a customer base there, the Harts decided they were ready to open a storefront.

"There wasn't any place locally to get what you needed, what you wanted (for home brewing)," Ruth said.

A hobby that grew from an experimentation with a simple Mr. Beer kit has turned into a nice second career. Now their store is a hub of beer-making activity, especially when they host beer- and wine-making classes (usually the third Saturday of the month).

St. Augustine is slowly becoming a city of unique beverages. The San Sebastian Winery is an institution in the city, as well as A1A Ale Works. The St. Augustine Distillery opened almost two years ago and is expanding its offerings.

Several new microbreweries recently opened or are in the works. Ancient City Brewing started operations last year, replacing Mile Marker Brewing. Bog Brewing is about to open right across the street from St. Augustine Brewing Solutions. Old Coast Ales is currently under construction on Anastasia Boulevard.

The Harts say people can brew beer in their homes with the purchase of a starter kit for around $130. Ingredients for five gallons of beer go for about $40.

With a six-pack of craft beer easily selling for $10 at liquor stores, it's not any more expensive to make your own beer in the long run.

"We haven't bought a beer in many years," Wyatt said.  

Q&A with the Harts:

How difficult is it to start making beer?

Wyatt: "It's very easy to do. Pretty much you just boil grain, add your flavor to it and let it sit for about a week with the yeast on it."
Ruth: With some kits, "It's as easy as opening up a can of tomato soup (and mixing it)."  

What makes good beer?

Wyatt: "Well, that's an age-old question. It's all with the taster."  

Do you like all beers? Have your tastes changed over the years?

Wyatt: "Yeah, they have. Originally, I thought Budweiser was good beer. I didn't know beer tasted any different. It was just whatever they sold down at the 7-Eleven. Then I started learning about beer, and now I wouldn't drink a Budweiser. I like a brown porter myself."
Ruth: "I like a brown or even a stout once in a while."  

What do customers seem to enjoy making?

Wyatt: "The most popular are IPAs (India pale ale). There's a lot of interest in Belgian wheat beers."  

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