"Fresh Beer," reads the large print stretching across the logo of the Brewer's Tasting Room, a new craft-beer taproom in north St. Pete. At the bottom of the logo is a reference to a "community of brewers." To a cynic, these references are reminiscent of major domestic breweries' marketing slogans, but in the case of the Brewer's Tasting Room, they actually mean something.
The Brewer's Tasting Room is a modest bar and restaurant located in a strip mall at the upper edge of town, right before the Fourth Street on-ramp to I-275. The interior is open and clean, just as you would expect any 8-week-old bar to be. A group of candlelit cafe tables sit in the center of the room, bordered by a large beer cooler on one side and a long, copper-surfaced L-shaped bar on the other. Out back is a large outdoor patio, where guests can sip beer and order Cajun food from the menu, while enjoying the weather.
Of the 20 rotating beers on tap, half are brewed in-state, from locals Cigar City, 7venth Sun, Cold Storage and St. Somewhere to Gainesville's Swamphead, Jacksonville's Intuition, and Jacksonville Beach's Engine 15. I think it's fair to say that this place does indeed serve fresh beer.
But if you thought the aforementioned "community of brewers" was a reference to these locally produced beers, you'd only be half right. The Brewer's Tasting Room has a one-barrel (31-gallon), steam-powered brewing system installed and ready to go, pending approval of the permits needed to brew on site. If all goes well, the house-label BTR beers will be on draft in June, potentially making the Brewer's Tasting Room St. Pete's first full-scale craft brewpub.
To a St. Pete beer fanatic like myself, that's great news, but as an individual with a keen interest in homebrewing, it gets even better. Plans are under way to section off a portion of the beer cooler to accommodate beers brewed in house by local homebrewers, with an additional 10 taps built into the cooler to serve them.
I can't stress enough just how cool this concept is. If you're a homebrewer with a great recipe to share, there's a chance you'll be invited to brew it on a much larger scale on the house system and have it served right there in the tasting room.
Getting feedback on your brews from friends is nice, but hearing it from strangers who have gone out of their way to order your beer is priceless. To my knowledge, there's absolutely nothing else like this in the bay area.
It's clear that the BTR staff are homebrewers at heart. Indeed, an event is planned for May 4 to celebrate National Homebrew Day (which is May 7). On the first Saturday of each May, homebrewers around the country participate in the American Homebrewers Assocation's Big Brew. At the Brewer's Tasting Room, homebrewers are invited to set up their gear right out front and brew batches with the BTR staff.
Until all the licenses and permits go through, the Brewer's Tasting Room is just that — a tasting room. But it's a good one, and it fills a gap in an area conspicuously devoid of solid craft beer spots. The drink options — which include a variety of wines, as well as non-alcoholic options such as Abita Root Beer — and diversity of beer styles available are enough to keep any beer enthusiast happy, especially if they happen to enjoy sampling Florida's finest. The forthcoming house beers and homebrewer collaborations will just be more icing on the cake — er, froth on the beer.