Flying Pig, Amsterdam, Brass Tap each bring something new to St. Petersburg beer scene

The Amsterdam resembles St. Pete’s original beer mecca, the Independent.

Luis Santana/tbt*

The Amsterdam resembles St. Pete’s original beer mecca, the Independent.

If you thought downtown St. Pete's craft beer scene was booming, you'd be right. In addition to three new breweries and popular existing beer bars, we have a whole new group to welcome to the neighborhood.

Three of the four beer bars announced this year — Yard of Ale, soon to open in the old Bishop Tavern space, is the fourth — have opened their doors just within the past two months, and I recently visited each of them to see what they bring to the beer scene.

The Flying Pig Taphouse, located on the bottom floor of the Fusion 1560 building on Central Avenue, is a roomy, attractively minimal bar with a breezy, open-air element due to the large open doors facing Central. The place is laid out sideways, with pool tables in a game room on one end and a wealth of seating stretching to the other, where a long bar sits in the back, featuring 50 beers on draft, and another 100 or so in the bottle. There are TVs above the bar, and music in the background, but the overall ambient volume is pleasantly low, making this a comfortable, low-key spot to grab a pint, although I imagine it may be somewhat more high-key once baseball season starts — it's just a couple of blocks from Tropicana Field.

Interestingly, one unique feature at the Flying Pig involves wine. Four wines are served from the keg, a first for the Tampa Bay area (the nearest bar with a wine keg system is in Orlando). While other bars have various wine draft systems utilizing nitrogen in a closed environment, these wines are served from sealed kegs, giving them a long shelf life and almost zero risk of oxidation. Guests can sample a wine before they buy it without risking the bottle's longevity.

The beer list is solid, with surprisingly competitive prices. Most beers are in the $5-$6 range, but when a keg is on its way out (like Stone's Enjoy By 12.13.13, which I was lucky enough to catch two days before its "expiration"), $4 will take it. Flying Pig also offers a small menu, so you don't have to go hungry while making your way through the extensive tap list.

Just a few blocks down Central is the Amsterdam, which feels like a reincarnation of St. Pete's original craft beer bar, the Independent. Even the layout is nearly identical, with plush, padded half-booths, a huge farm table in the center and a bar in the back serving a variety of classic imports, as well as quality domestic fare. Where the Flying Pig is aesthetically modern, the Amsterdam is rustic, with a copper bar top, hand-carved tables and a chalkboard beer menu.

The genuinely old white brick walls are decorated with beer flags and a deconstructed piano, of all things, and there's a vague nautical theme throughout, from the port hole in the cooler door to the rope trim around the beer list to Edison-bulbed light fixtures suspended from an actual WWII sailboat mast. To complete the vibe, an outdoor biergarten will be added by February.

The other new kid on the block has a familiar name: The Brass Tap. This upscale, polished spin on the craft beer chain concept has over 30 locations across the country, making it a direct competitor with the similarly styled World of Beer, which also has a downtown St. Pete location. Like its sister locations, the St. Pete Brass Tap is slick and professional, with an attractive, classy interior and a voluminous and up-to-date beer selection. The big feature here (aside from an astonishing 60 beers on draft) is the seamless division of floor space between an indoor lounge and deck patio, the latter heated with those cool upright, open flame heaters.

The Brass Tap is definitely a place to try beer on tap, but it also maintains an extensive bottle selection, organized by style. The menu includes detailed style descriptions, specs for each beer, and even full paragraphs for each of the 10 wines available, so it's a great place if you're in the market for a crash course.

All three bars have something unique, but what they mainly bring to downtown St. Pete is lots of great beer — and who can argue with that? I'd be proud to take visitors from out of town to any of these places; they further solidify St. Pete's reputation as a seriously up-and-coming craft beer destination. — jg@saintbeat.com

Flying Pig Taphouse

1584 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 895-5900, flyingpigtaphouse.com

The vibe: A laid-back beer bar with pool, food, and enough room to accommodate big groups.

Food: Appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, $4-$10.

Booze: Beer, $4-$7; wine, $7-$8. Happy hour is Monday-Friday until 7 p.m., featuring $1 off all drinks.

Specialty: You'll find several new local offerings on the list, including entries from breweries not much older than the Flying Pig itself, such as Clearwater's Pair O' Dice and St. Pete's Three Daughters. There are also some great imports, such as Sri Lanka's Lion Stout, the favorite beer of the late, great Michael Jackson (the writer, not the singer). Definitely check the board for $4 deals, though — on the night I visited, this included Stone's Enjoy By, as well as North Coast's Old Rasputin. And if you're a wine drinker, you definitely have to check out the wine keg system.

Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Amsterdam

1049 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 623-4950, theamsterdamstpete.com

The vibe: A small and intimate European-inspired taproom and eventual outdoor biergarten.

Booze: Beer, $3-$8.50, with half-pours $2 off; wine, $6-$8.50 by the glass and $20-$30 by the bottle.

Specialty: The Amsterdam seems to favor imports and domestic brews with a European flair, such as Rapp Brewing's ever-popular Berliner Weisse, offered here with the traditional raspberry syrup addition, if desired. Beers from Quebec's Unibroue are also popular here, so expect to always see two or three on tap, such as La Fin Du Monde, as well as the cherry version of Éphémère.

Hours: 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.

The Brass Tap

653 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-3119, brasstapbeerbar.com

The vibe: A half-indoor, half-outdoor beer mega-bar, with a huge draft and bottle list.

Booze: Beer, $6-$10 on draft and $3.50-$27 in bottle; wine, $5.50-$17 by the glass and $28-$56 by the bottle. Happy hour is Monday-Friday until 7 p.m., featuring $1.50 off all drafts and $3 house wines.

Specialty: The beer list runs the gamut, from Belgian Lambics and West Coast pale ales to a slew of local brews from Cigar City, 7venth Sun, Rock Brothers, Saint Somewhere, and Green Bench. Speaking of Green Bench, the Brass Tap is the only place aside from the brewery itself where you can try its excellent Surrealist IPA, a sour IPA that's I've been eagerly awaiting since I tried a pilot batch a few months ago. Brass Tap is also one of only a handful of Bay area bars serving Goose Island's legendary Bourbon County Brand Stout, a monstrous (15 percent alcohol-by-volume) barrel-aged imperial stout. Take your time with that one.

Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 3 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday.

Flying Pig Taphouse

1584 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 895-5900, flyingpigtaphouse.com

The vibe: A laid-back beer bar with pool, food, and enough room to accommodate big groups.

Food: Appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, $4-$10.

Booze: Beer, $4-$7; wine, $7-$8. Happy hour is Monday-Friday until 7 p.m., featuring $1 off all drinks.

Specialty: You'll find several new local offerings on the list, including entries from breweries not much older than the Flying Pig itself, such as Clearwater's Pair O' Dice and St. Pete's Three Daughters. There are also some great imports, such as Sri Lanka's Lion Stout, the favorite beer of the late, great Michael Jackson (the writer, not the singer). Definitely check the board for $4 deals, though — on the night I visited, this included Stone's Enjoy By, as well as North Coast's Old Rasputin. And if you're a wine drinker, you definitely have to check out the wine keg system.

Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Amsterdam

1049 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. (727) 623-4950, theamsterdamstpete.com

The vibe: A small and intimate European-inspired taproom and eventual outdoor biergarten.

Booze: Beer, $3-$8.50, with half-pours $2 off; wine, $6-$8.50 by the glass and $20-$30 by the bottle.

Specialty: The Amsterdam seems to favor imports and domestic brews with a European flair, such as Rapp Brewing's ever-popular Berliner Weisse, offered here with the traditional raspberry syrup addition, if desired. Beers from Quebec's Unibroue are also popular here, so expect to always see two or three on tap, such as La Fin Du Monde, as well as the cherry version of Éphémère.

Hours: 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday-Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.

The Brass Tap

653 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 822-3119, brasstapbeerbar.com

The vibe: A half-indoor, half-outdoor beer mega-bar, with a huge draft and bottle list.

Booze: Beer, $6-$10 on draft and $3.50-$27 in bottle; wine, $5.50-$17 by the glass and $28-$56 by the bottle. Happy hour is Monday-Friday until 7 p.m., featuring $1.50 off all drafts and $3 house wines.

Specialty: The beer list runs the gamut, from Belgian Lambics and West Coast pale ales to a slew of local brews from Cigar City, 7venth Sun, Rock Brothers, Saint Somewhere, and Green Bench. Speaking of Green Bench, the Brass Tap is the only place aside from the brewery itself where you can try its excellent Surrealist IPA, a sour IPA that's I've been eagerly awaiting since I tried a pilot batch a few months ago. Brass Tap is also one of only a handful of Bay area bars serving Goose Island's legendary Bourbon County Brand Stout, a monstrous (15 percent alcohol-by-volume) barrel-aged imperial stout. Take your time with that one.

Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, noon to 3 a.m. Friday-Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday.

Flying Pig, Amsterdam, Brass Tap each bring something new to St. Petersburg beer scene 12/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 5:03pm]

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