In 1977, an energetic, young dreamer with a wicked laugh and creative streak arrived on Mount Dora's doorstep. By applying his woodworking skills and unflappable ingenuity to the crafting and repairing of furniture, Jeff Herbst built a successful carpentry business uptown.
Sixteen years ago he began crafting beer at home, and eventually his thirst for beer making grew into an unbridled passion. Following the unrelenting call of hops and barley, Herbst, an Ohio native, spent three years converting his carpentry shop into a full-blown brewery complete with four fermentation tanks and six bright tanks for the clarified beer. Mount Dora Brewing, his labor of love, opened its doors over six years ago.
Today, the brewery is expanding its space while loyal customers sip its house-made beers including Pistolville Porter, Beauclair Blond and Dora Drawdy Drool. His most recent brew, a brown ale, is yet unnamed. Creative patrons have submitted names and the favorite contenders are Bad Bunny Brown, Brew-nette Baby, Highland Hare, Uptown Umber One and Highland Haze.
Herbst's old carpentry tools and a hodgepodge of collectibles hang in the open rafters above the brewery's Tap Room. This is the rustic space where friends gather, beer flows and live music fills the room on weekends. The brewery also boasts a beer garden, and the Rockin' Rabbit Cafe that serves breakfast and lunch daily to rave reviews. Dinner is served Friday through Monday.
Married to his patient wife, Peggy, for 34 years, Herbst is an authentic, fun-loving, intense Renaissance man. Affable and creative with a passion for playing music and enjoying belly laughs with friends, Herbst is also fiercely loyal and complex. He's undeniably a proud family man, as well as a 'go-big-or-go-home' force to be reckoned with.
In his college years, Herbst was both a competitive diver and a wide-out on a football scholarship. Yes, that's a nimble tough guy that can run fast and point his toes.
Intrigued by all his interesting complexities, Mount Dora Buzz hung out with Herbst to glean just a few more facets:
BUZZ: You always go all out for Halloween. What was your best costume? JEFF: Peggy and I were the "American Gothic" painting. (see photo with Trevor the bartender at right)
BUZZ: What three words describe you? JEFF: Stubborn, independent, tenacious.
BUZZ: What three words would Peggy use to describe you? JEFF: Dumb ass (laughs), resourceful, tenacious,
BUZZ: What are you afraid of? JEFF: Not much. I'm too stupid to be afraid. I'm afraid of stupid people.
BUZZ: Tell me your worst job ever? JEFF: Roofing in July.
BUZZ: What's on your bucket list? JEFF: Travel to Australia and build an airplane.
BUZZ: What is the best trait in a person? JEFF: Honesty.
BUZZ: What is the worst vacation you've ever had? JEFF: Eating conch in an empty restaurant by myself in Miami on Thanksgiving Day.
BUZZ: What super hero best describes you? JEFF: Go Go Gadget.
BUZZ: What would you like to be in your next life? JEFF: Somebody that doesn't care so much because it would make life simpler.
Then it was time for a speedy round of "Would You Rather..."
BUZZ: Hug or a handshake? JEFF: Hug.
BUZZ: Boxers or briefs? JEFF: Boxer briefs. (smiles)
BUZZ: Sing or dance? JEFF: Yes.
BUZZ: Down dog or dumb bells? JEFF: Is it with partners? (laughs)
BUZZ: Super Bowl or Tony Awards? JEFF: Super Bowl.
BUZZ: Meditation or push-ups? JEFF: Push-ups.
BUZZ: Roller coaster or carousel? JEFF: Roller coaster
BUZZ: "Walk This Way" or "Staying Alive"? JEFF: "Walk This Way."
BUZZ: Spiders or Snakes? JE: "...and that ain't what it takes..." (singing the classic)
BUZZ: Sail boat or WaveRunner? JEFF: Sailboat.
BUZZ: Copperfield or craps table? JEFF: Copperfield.
BUZZ: Beach chair or surf board? JEFF: Surf board.
BUZZ: Heights or speed? JEFF: Both. (Jeff was a 10-meter platform diver)
Mount Dora Brewing is located at 405 S. Highland Street, uptown Mount Dora. Call 352-735-1111 for hours or take-out.
If you really want to know what's happening, ask someone who's right in the thick of everything. Mount Dora Buzz asked Kim Leinbach, the city's Interim City Manager, to share his valuable insights about Mount Dora's future, challenges and other topics.
MDB: If you had a crystal ball, what changes could residents notice in the next five years? LEINBACH: I believe Mount Dora residents will see the beginning of renewed growth and development. As the infrastructure matures in the northeast portion of the community, business interests of several types should be expected. MDB: Next ten years? LEINBACH: Probably more of the same. I wouldn’t be surprised to see, in addition to the commercial activity,additional residential growth as well. MDB: What's been the biggest surprise about Mount Dora? LEINBACH: What Mount Dora has to offer – which is really something for everyone. It is diverse in its attractivenessand appeals to people in all age groups. One might think it largely relies upon its unique downtown or one of many festivals/activities. However, it goes beyond these special attributes to incorporating a variety of shopping, beautiful scenery, peaceful walks and just a great place to live, work and visit. MDB: What's been the biggest surprise about City Hall? LEINBACH: Actually, not really much of a surprise – Mount Dora enjoys the hard work and professionalism of a great staff. Employees demonstrate their desire to serve our residents and visitors with courteous and responsive service. MDB: Providing there are no big delays, when would you expect to see the new bike trail open? LEINBACH: It is still essentially in the design phase at Lake County and a ways away. You could always use the bike courses near the municipal swimming pool, however.
MDB: What are the city's two greatest assets? LEINBACH: The people of Mount Dora and its multifaceted benefits to living here. MDB: In your opinion, what are the two biggest challenges facing Mount Dora? LEINBACH: Managing the anticipated growth for the cityand incorporating new citizens (residential as well as commercial) into the rich history, traditions and values that have prevailed over the years. MDB: Is the city on track preparing to meet those challenges? LEINBACH: I believe so. In the first regard, Mount Dora is working on a number of infrastructure projects to serve growth areas. In the second, I have participated in a number of meetings and oftentimes I hear of the need to prepare for growth with the goal of incorporating it into the mantra of our community.
MDB: There was a common perception that Mount Dora wasn't business-friendly. What is now being done to change that?
LEINBACH: We've listened to a lot of business owners to receive feedback to help guide us in making necessary changes to improve. We'll continue to get better. Mayor Girone has had a lot of meetings on this issue and we've implemented a customer-friendly approach in the building and permitting areas, as well as city-wide. The philosophy is that our residents aren't customers, they are stockholders that own the company. MDB: Do you get the support, time and space needed to effectively manage the city? LEINBACH: Absolutely. Our Mayor and City Council have been very supportive as well as the staff serving our municipality. This is in addition to our residents who have helped me out tremendously. MDB: New city councils can take a while to get their sea legs. Are things moving productively now? LEINBACH: I think our City Council is working diligently on the many significant matters facing Mount Dora and developing a team-building spirit while doing so. MDB: What are your favorite lunch spots? LEINBACH: I haven’t found one I don’t savor. Mount Dora has outstanding offerings to any palate or appetite. MDB: What are your favorite things to do in the city after work? LEINBACH: I like to unwind with long walks, meeting people and bragging about my adopted community. MDB: As the interim city manager, what words of wisdomwould you offer an incoming city manager about Mount Dora and its government? LEINBACH: Mount Dora is a great place. Certainly, it has its challenges, just like all communities, but offers a rich tradition coupled with a promising future. Work will involve managing growth, keeping finances in line, protecting the heritage of the city, parking (a great problem to have as so many communities I have seen in the past wish they had the problem of too many vehicles) and balancing policies with the matters of administration.