John Denny quit his job for beer.
The former associate director of the UF honors program left his position Jan. 30 to launch First Magnitude Brewing Co., a new craft beer production brewery set to open on South Main Street in July.
Denny and his wife Christine will run the business with another couple, Meg and Wells The Losen. Denny will take on the role of head brewer.
“This is a dream that I’ve been kicking around with my wife and a couple other partners, and we’re finally going to execute it,” Denny said. “Here I have an opportunity to combine something that I really love with a way to make a living.”
Denny’s love for craft beer emerged 20 years ago, when he began homebrewing after taking a class at Santa Fe Community College.
For years, Denny has devoted his free time to distilling new drinks. He entered brewing competitions through the Hogtown Brewers and won various awards for his creative kitchen concoctions. Come July, he’ll be crafting those concoctions in a new microbrewery located in downtown near Innovation Square.
First Magnitude will host brewery tours and have a taproom where customers can try year-round and seasonal beers. There’s an increasing demand for it in Gainesville, said Brandon Nappy, marketing manager at Swamp Head Brewery.
He said First Magnitude will be well received, even by the competition.
“Our whole industry is very friendly. We’re all about fostering the love for craft beer,” Nappy said. “It will now be the three musketeers. It’ll be Tall Paul’s, Swamp Head Brewery, and First Magnitude.”
The name of the business is inspired by Florida’s first-magnitude springs, which pump water at more than 100 cubic feet per second. Denny said North Central Florida has more first-magnitude springs than anywhere else in the world.
“I love all the unique things about Gainesville,” said Denny, who said he hopes to model his company after thriving, distinctive local businesses like Satchel’s Pizza.
It’s as much an art and a culture as it is a beer, Nappy said. It’s about a handmade, local product that both the brewers and the customers enjoy.
A hiker, biker and avid music lover, Denny said he hopes to target customers who want to relax after a long day outdoors.
Director of the UF Honors Program Kevin Knudson worked with Denny for five years. He said he hopes to see his former co-worker’s business thrive.
“We miss him,” said Knudson, who plans to delegate Denny’s roles among himself and two other honors advisers. “But I’m also really happy for him.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/14/2014 under the headline "UF professor leaves honors advising to open downtown brewery"]