Valparaiso High School graduate, Tom Uban, took a degree in Electrical Engineering with a computer science emphasis from Purdue University. He moved to Champaign and then to Boston working on programing super computer operating systems and doing consulting work. After six years or so, he moved back to Indiana and worked designing and programing pinball machines for about seven years. He then resumed his consulting work doing business with some well know names in the technology world.
Uban made a bit of a departure from computer science in 2009 when he started the process of putting together Figure Eight Brewing. They opened for business in March of 2010 on the west side of Valpo where Four Fathers Brewing in now located. He still uses his original brew house although he has added quite a bit of additional fermentation capacity.
Mashing in is one part of the brewing process that Uban favors because it is a simple, peaceful process that allows his mind to recharge while he savors the smell of the grains. He also enjoys the part of the process where he has just finished the knock out and the time schedule relaxes. Uban recalls his first professional brew. Not knowing what to expect, he was surprised that first brew day was twelve long hours of manual labor. His fourth brew, the Rye Knot (a Baltic style Porter), was even more of an adventure. The rye grain component of the mash gummed up the equipment resulting in a painfully slow transfer of the wort from the mash tun to the kettle. He finished that brew up at 2:00 AM. Nonetheless, he takes quite a bit of satisfaction in the whole engineering, learning process and has grown in his craft as a result.
Figure Eight’s flagship brew is the Snake Pro (a Double IPA) although they also sell a fair amount of the deLight (a Cream Ale). Uban’s personal favorite is “the one in my hand” at any given time. A couple of recent brews include the Devil’s Drip Tripel (a 12+% Tripel) and the Pale Monk (a Belgian Style Pale), as well as #Bramling Cross, which is his 17th in a series of single hop Pale Ales. He is also doing some bourbon barrel batches with his Date Night Barleywine and his Black Corridor Imperial Chocolate Stout. At 12+ and 10+ ABV respectively, they will be both potent and tasty. Most of the brews in Uban’s lineup are his own recipes. However, a couple come from other brewers he has worked with over the years.
Both the scientific aspect and the artistic part of the craft appeal to Uban. He enjoys tweaking the strike temperature to see how it affects the final gravity of a brew as well as the taste. While he strives for consistency in his year-round offerings, he frequently makes some subtle changes to his seasonal brews. He recalls his time designing and programing pinball games where he would relish the user’s response to playing his games. The same satisfaction comes to him from seeing his beer being sampled and judged.
Like many brewer/owners, Uban has very little time for anything other than brewing and running the business. His programing background has served him well in the business as he has built his own web site that does what he needs it to do. He once was an avid rock climber, but now is lucky to get out once a year. His brewery is named Figure Eight after a knot used in rock climbing. The only non-work things he finds time for now are his family, working on his house, taking a walk, riding his bike, and hanging out with his cat, Karma. The time and dedication he puts into the business have produced some outstanding beer and a great modern pub atmosphere. If you ever find yourself in Valpo, do yourself a favor and stop in for a pint or two.