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The art of disrupting the coffee industry, one barrel of whiskey at a time

HOGG BATCH COFFEE

What if we told you, you could have your cake and eat it too? We imagine you would scoff. Fair enough. Well, for twin brothers Duane and David Hogg, making the wildest dreams of coffee and bourbon lovers come to life, one cup at a time, is more than just a side hustle. It is about creating a unique brand all their own, building connections, getting customers excited about home brew, and driving the premium coffee industry to new whiskey and gin-soaked heights. And, despite a pandemic with no end in sight, they have no plans of taking their foot off the innovation accelerator. We sat down (sort of) with one half of the duo behind Hogg Batch Coffee to get the down-low on their unique approach to roasting, the need to support black businesses, and what’s on their current Spotify playlists, among a few other burning questions.

CYTIES: Where did the name Hogg Batch originate? Were your last names the only inspiration?

DUANE HOGG: Well, yes, and no. The name was inspired by our focus on small batch production to ensure premium quality and flavor. We also had a strong desire to build a unique and easily identifiable brand that we could call our own—adding Hogg was a natural fit.

CYTIES: How do two twin brothers end up going into business together and what’s that experience been like?

DUANE HOGG: It’s funny, we’ve pretty much been in business together our entire lives. As twins, we shared a very strong bond growing up that led us down similar life paths. We made similar choices regarding our education, careers, and broader professional aspirations. This also translates to how we channel our energy in our free time.

We are creatives at heart and have always thrived on having side hustles. We actually took several entrepreneurial leaps before landing on coffee, including exploring videography and fashion. It’s been quite a journey, with ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we always know we can count on each other.

CYTIES: What brought you guys to Florida?

DUANE HOGG: We originally moved to Florida to pursue higher education and quickly found ourselves enjoying the laid back culture and entrepreneurial spirit here. St. Petersburg, specifically, has cultivated a rich culture of small businesses and local community emphasis over the last decade.

We love change and seeing the growth in Florida has been exciting and inspiring. Coffee feels like a part of the culture here, in a way that isn’t overly saturated. We have noticed that there are some really great coffee companies focusing on the shop experience, without enough focus on elevating the retail experience and catering to homebrewers. At the same time, the coffee shop experiences are pretty consistent, so there is still room for divergence there as well.

CYTIES: Can you talk about your unique decision to roast your coffee beans in spirit-soaked barrels? We love that!

DUANE HOGG: The barrel-aged method is very unique and it requires a lot of patience and quality control. David stumbled upon this method while vacationing off the coast of Florida. We were both struck by the unique flavor of the beans and how it was achieved without additives. It was incredible and we had to know more. We eventually started experimenting on our own with aging tiny barrels with spirits and then resting the beans in them. It was very time consuming but the results were amazing. It was a very unusual scientific process, that yielded a pure flavor you can’t find in artificially flavored coffee.

To date, our most unique flavor combination has been our Coffee + Gin, aged in a Tom Cat Gin barrel. The taste is not what you would imagine!

CYTIES: As Twin brothers, you’ve mentioned the similarities you share with David. Do you also take your morning cup of coffee the same?

DUANE HOGG: Until recently, I would have said no. I was always rushing out of the house in the mornings, so I would take my French press with me to work and brew onsite. David prioritized his morning brew, making time to craft a delicious cortado or latte most mornings. These days, we both make time to craft our coffee, usually, so we can discuss notes and brew inspirations later.

CYTIES: You guys are definitely modern-day renaissance men. Okay, quick mad scientist question. What’s your favorite coffee + booze concoction?

DUANE HOGG: As whiskey and bourbon connoisseurs, I’d have to say our signature flavors Coffee + Whiskey or Bourbon are our favorites. Although, we get the most satisfaction from creating new combinations, like our upcoming Coffee + Sherry.

CYTIES: Coffee + Sherry?! That’s music to our taste buds. Speaking of which, what artists do you have circulating through your playlists while roasting?

DUANE HOGG: I’m forever a Hip Hop Head, and in particular 90’s era artists out of New York. Growing up in Connecticut, that was the soundtrack to our life and the environment around us. Aside from Hip Hop, we mix in R&B (again mostly 90’s, the early 2000s) and Soul. Our large production roaster aka “Gold Soul” is inspired by one of David’s favorite artists: Sade. With that said, Lo-Fi Beats has recently been our go-to playlist when we really need to focus. Oh, and we recently created a Hogg Batch Coffee playlist with a medley of music on Spotify, so feel free to check it out.

CYTIES: We’ll definitely vibe to that later. Shifting gears a bit, since your operation is mainly virtual, how are you growing your brand locally?

DUANE HOGG: With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, our ability to make face-to-face connections with people and provide an in-person tasting experience has certainly been put on hold. However, we’ve continued to increase our online engagement and utilize platforms like CYTIES to continue to drive brand awareness. Locally, we’ve offered special discounts and even partnered with other local brands to help strengthen our presence in the community. We’re actually working on a plan to coordinate socially-distant pop-ups in the near future, so stay tuned.

CYTIES: What has it been like navigating the pandemic?

DUANE HOGG: It’s been challenging, especially because the bulk of our business was done in-person prior to the pandemic. In the beginning, we took a huge hit and considered shutting down our business. But, we persisted, channeling Henry Ford, who said, “When everything seems to be against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” We decided to let this moment make us not break us, and we doubled-down. Right now, we are laser-focused on introducing innovation into every aspect of our process, experience, and how we add value to people’s lives.

CYTIES: We’re thrilled you stuck around. What reflections do you have about the intense racial and social justice movement afoot in this country? Why is it important that Black-owned businesses thrive? Do you feel hopeful?

DUANE HOGG: There hasn’t been an easier time to be heard than now, with technology and all the means by which we can share our voice. With that being said, I believe it’s more important to follow through with real action and present real solutions to the problems we’re facing as a country. Supporting black-owned businesses is an important step toward inspiring meaningful change—that small choice builds up communities, by creating a greater diversity of local wealth and resources. We are hopeful that the strong support black businesses are receiving is not just a moment, but something that continues until it becomes the norm.

CYTIES: What’s next for Hogg Batch?

DUANE HOGG: Right now, we’re working on ways to create a better customer experience, be more accessible, and broaden our reach. We’re constantly thinking about the future of coffee, retail, and ways that we can continue to disrupt the marketplace. As we continue to focus on what resonates with home brewers, we want to expand our offerings to deliver the best in-home experience for coffee lovers.

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