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Microbrewery in brick warehouse planned near downtown St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG

Lots of alfresco dining, a pedibus, an arts block — what more does St. Petersburg need to be hip? A microbrewery, of course.

Green Bench Brewing Co. plans to open in a 1925 brick warehouse at 1134 First Ave. N this summer. The 7,200-square-foot microbrewery will have a 2,000-square-foot tasting room, a beer garden with a patio made of hex blocks, and a production area with a milling room for grain and plenty of kettles, tanks and stainless steel.

"I think the city is ready for it. It's shocking that there has never been one before," said co-owner Steven Duffy. "The reaction we've gotten from telling friends and family as well as strangers has all been positive."

Brew pubs make their own beer to sell along with food. A microbrewery makes 15,000 barrels or less of beer a year that can be consumed on site and sold elsewhere. Green Bench won't sell food but will have agreements with area restaurants that will deliver.

Food trucks, another trend that's catching on in Tampa Bay, will be the main source of food on weekends, said co-owner Nathan Stonecipher. He hopes to have several buses parked there Friday through Sunday. The microbrewery requires approval from the city's Development Review Commission, which will meet in February about it.

Stonecipher, 30, and Duffy, 29, are St. Petersburg natives who graduated from St. Petersburg High School and the University of Florida. Stonecipher has worked in financial management for Raymond James Financial and Directed Capital Resources in St. Petersburg. Duffy has worked in construction management for W.G. Mills in Fort Myers and Hawkeye Construction in Clearwater.

They want to play up an Old Florida feel in the brewery.

"We'll have the old brick, natural woods — pine, cypress. We'll have green benches, some originals and some re-created," Stonecipher said. "We're really trying to stay true to early 1900s St. Petersburg."

He declined to say how much they are spending on the project, but said they are raising some of the equity capital from outside investors.

Green Bench Brewers will sell pints as well as "flights," 5-ounce tasting glasses. It will also offer beer by the quart or gallon in a "growler." They will be filled right from the tap, the freshest source possible.

"In the Pacific Northwest, people fill up two or three growlers on a Friday afternoon to keep in their refrigerator all weekend. There are lines out the door on Fridays at microbreweries," said Stonecipher. "It's become a weekly habit to swing by the brewery and pick up your beer fresh from the source."

Green Bench Brewers will make two yet-to-be named flagship beers that are always on tap and have about eight other homegrown beers on a rotating basis. The brewmaster, Matt Manthe, has a microbiology degree and worked at a brewery in South Carolina before going to Berlin for classical brewing training. Green Bench Brewery found his resume online and started interviewing him, as well as other candidates, via Skype. After a final in-person interview late last year, Manthe was hired.

Now the location is locked in, too.

"We've been looking around St. Petersburg ever since we started the project trying to get an idea of what neighborhood fits us best and what area of the city is really up and coming," Duffy said. "We didn't want to get into a busy environment that we had to squeeze into. It wasn't until we walked in this space that we could truly see a beer garden atmosphere."

The beer garden will be an enclosed outdoor area as opposed to alfresco seating facing the street. Duffy pictures people sitting and relaxing or playing croquet or cornhole.

Beer goes with just about anything.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com.

Microbrewery in brick warehouse planned near downtown St. Petersburg 01/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, January 7, 2012 3:31am]
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