After 14 years of serving in explosive ordnance disposal in the Air Force, John W. Degnaro felt it was time to do something else.
“I really kind of got tired of doing that job, so I put my mind to I wanted to run a business of some kind for myself,” he said. “I spent a couple years narrowing down what that business would be, and about five years ago, I decided that was the path I wanted to go down, so I immersed myself in it and taught myself everything I could about the brewing industry and what it would take to put this together.”
Degnaro did not have an interest in being the brewer but taught himself as much as he could about brewing. He even had a one-barrel pilot system in his home to do some homebrewing. The pilot system is now used for recipe development at Bombs Away Beer Company, which he opened with his wife, Hilary, and head brewer David Z. Kimbell.
Even before the Degnaros had a building, John began collecting equipment from other industries, including a mash ton he made from equipment he picked up at a dairy. The Degnaros’ backyard soon became a brewery equipment “boneyard.” Reusing equipment is less expensive than a buying a plugged-in brewhouse, according to Hilary Degnaro.
“The small budget we did have that allowed us to put the money where it matters, and I think we very much put the money where it matters in the process,” John W. Degnaro said. “It took us a year and a month from closing on the building to opening the doors. … We had some good delays thrown in there, but we still worked on it along the way.”
The result is an almost 10,000-square-foot, military base-themed venue. Tap handles are miniature models of bombs with dog tags hung around each tap with the name of the beer. Nostalgic photos also are sprinkled throughout the building. The large metal tables and the bar were created by the Degnaros.
“It was very important for us to do the work ourselves, and we really did,” John W. Degnaro said. “Everything in here we have built ourselves, short of the stuff required by law, like electrical and plumbing, but we have literally done everything else. We made these tables. We made the bar. We did everything.”
Bombs Away currently offers its Short Fuse Blonde Ale, B.A.B.C. IPA, Willie Pete Wit, Low Order Porter, High Speed Low Drag Lager, Wild Card Spiced Ale, Brisance Bitter and Bag Drag B.P.A. on tap. Two more will be added soon and four others later. Its tap system can serve up to 16 beers made in the brewery’s 10-barrel system.
Kimbell has a strong brewing background, having worked at La Cumbre Brewing Co., Santa Fe Brewing Co. and Kellys Brew Pub. He is currently most proud of his B.A.B.C. IPA on tap at Bombs Away.
“The IPA is something we’ve been developing for a while,” Kimbell said. “It’s a little different than most IPAs in the city. It’s not so bitter. It’s much more citrus-forward. It’s New England-style, which is the trend. I prefer it. … I think our IPA is phenomenal.”
The idea is to keep taps rotating regularly, which gives Bombs Away the ability to try different things and change with each season, according to Hilary Degnaro.
“Our intent is to keep them pretty drinkable,” John W. Degnaro said. “We’re not looking to have over-the-top barrel-aged. We will do things like that, but for the most part, we’re trying to keep the bulk of the offerings very approachable and drinkable.”