Entrepreneurs and Innovators — The Dennys

Entrepreneurs and Innovators

The Dennys – First Magnitude Brewing Company

Christine Denny

’94 English, with Minors in Education and Anthropology
M’00 Forest Resources and Conservation

John Denny

’92 Psychology
PhD’12 Higher Education Administration

We talked to Christine about their craft brewery and event space, First Magnitude Brewing Company.

How has your degree in English impacted your academic and professional careers?

My awkward class presentations, early attempts at writing a coherent report, and struggles to best understand complex literature planted a seed and desire to learn more and get better. The skills I learned as an English major helped out a lot — critical thinking, writing, and understanding and interpreting the writing of others. From 1999 to 2016, I worked at Normandeau Associates, an environmental consulting company and, in 2015, my husband and I opened First Magnitude Brewing Company with two of our friends. Both of these roles are entrepreneurial, and success is closely tied to communicating and connecting with people. Over the years, I have honed my ability to tell the story of our company and our brand and I feel this is rooted in the education I had in my undergraduate classes.

What is the favorite part of your job?

I love that every day has so much diversity. First Magnitude is always alive with activity, from the large-scale production work of the brewing, canning, and bottling that my husband, John, leads to the energy of our taproom and the fun of live music and special events. I’m lucky enough to be able to cross-pollinate my background in environmental science and water resources with the mission and vision of the brewery. A core part of our brewery’s mission is to celebrate springs and engage people in efforts to protect them. The name First Magnitude refers to Florida’s springs. North central Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world. Those that are the most powerful, pushing out over 100 cubic feet of water per second, are called first-magnitude springs. We want people to come and enjoy great beer with their friends, and while they’re at it, look at Florida-focused artwork on our walls, participate in one of our events, such as the 7.2 K Springs Run (72 degrees Fahrenheit is the constant temperature of spring water), or ask about the reason behind some of our beer names. Maybe we’ll help create a spark to care about the springs, too.

What’s great about Gainesville for your business and your family?

Someone once told me that every town has its “currency.” In some, it’s who your family is, in others, it’s what your work is. In Gainesville, it’s what your story is. We moved back here in 1999 and tell each other regularly that we can’t imagine a better place to live. Our kids are growing up in a town with so much to offer. We love it here, and we love that Gainesville has accepted our brewery into the community and are making it part of the story of this town.

– Rachel Wayne

Many of our innovative alumni have used their degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a launching pad for beginning their own business. In each issue, we will focus on self-starting alumni. Our first two issues feature Gators from Gainesville. If you have suggestions for future inclusions, email us.