BAYSIDE WEST — Shawn Bowman and Michael Beard began home brewing beer out of their San Diego residence three years ago.
After consulting with a local brewer, they learned that Texas and Florida were the "two most emerging craft beer states."
That's when Beard reached out to his former Florida State University roommate and fraternity buddy Keelan Cottle, who still lived in Florida.
"He knew I had restaurant, bar and night life experience," Cottle said. "I've been selling beers in restaurants and it's always been other people's, so I thought why not make it my own?"
On June 10, 81Bay Brewing Co. celebrated a soft opening at 4465 W Gandy Blvd., although the taproom isn't fully completed.
The Florida natives will now have 17,000 square feet of brewing and beer drinking space.
"About 4,500 square feet will be a tap room with a special event room that people can rent out for corporate events, baby showers, engagement and anniversary parties. Everything really."
The tap room itself will feature 23-foot high ceilings, a pingpong table, foosball, dart boards, corn hole and a stage for live entertainment.
"On the walls, we'll have large murals and art pieces from local St. Petersburg artist, Sebastian Coolidge," Cottle said. "It's going to be an eclectic, relaxed type of environment."
The lengthy bar will offer all different styles of beer from lagers and pilsners, to porters and IPAs.
"One thing we'd like to do is to help develop the female craft beer drinker more because it seems to be somewhat of a male-driven industry," Cottle said.
Everything at the new brewery will be beer-driven, even the way guests wash their hands.
"We will have an 11-foot hand washing station, which Stirling Design made with our kegs, so if you're playing games and need to wash your hands, you don't have to actually enter the bathroom," Briant Mertz, public relations, said.
They are also working with South Tampa Farm to make sure nothing goes to waste.
"Whenever we finish with a brew, we give that spent grain ingredients to a local farmer so he can feed his pigs, chickens, cows," Cottle said.
A grand opening is planned for later in the summer.
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