Believe it or not, there are now 13 breweries operating in St. Petersburg, not even counting the beaches. You may have heard of the latest one, even if you haven’t been yet.
Avid Brew Company is a new extension of Avid Brewing and Growing Supplies, a homebrew and hydroponic supply shop that’s served downtown St. Pete for more than six years. The tasting room had a soft opening in July, and it’s since ramped up production to fill eight of the tasting room’s 14 taps.
Head brewer and bartender Connor Meyer grew up in New Hampshire and trained to brew in England, so the tap list is a natural reflection of his background. Beers like Bittah, an English bitter (with a New Hampshire accent, presumably), are constants on the tap list, while a range of other styles come and go with the seasons, ranging from traditional styles like an Oktoberfest märzen, to more unusual brews, like a cucumber saison.
On the 1st Avenue side, the interior is a typical, well-lit supply shop of the sort that will be familiar to all homebrewers. A hallway leads to the tasting room, with the two environments separated by a cozy nook with an L-shaped bench and a small barrel rack to the side. The brewhouse and tasting room are bundled into a single large room with a look that’s equal parts industrial and quaint. Tall fermenters loom in the back, cooled by a massive warehouse ceiling fan, while the front is populated with high-top tables and some metal stools at the bar.
I might as well have the phrase “cement floors, metal bartop and brick walls” permanently copied to my notebook, but at Avid, the look is used to a fresh effect. The combination of low lighting and the streaky black-and-grey paint of the brewhouse walls contrasting with the brick and metal of the bar give off an old-school pub vibe.
An iron spiral staircase leads to what appears to be a small storeroom upstairs with a window peering out onto the brewhouse, giving the impression of an upstairs cottage apartment overlooking a moonlit café. Maybe that’s my imagination getting the best of me; even so, it’s a cool look, and one that’s clearly by design.The Avid business model: on-site sales only, and maybe limited distribution exclusively in the St. Petersburg market. If I were to open a brewery in 2018, that’s about exactly how I’d do it: focus on the environment and keep the beers high-quality and in-house.
After all, I’m not sure there’s much room for expansion when it comes to Tampa Bay-area production breweries, but there’s certainly room for low-key local spots that just happen to brew their own.
That’s not to say you wouldn’t visit Avid solely for the beer.
To the contrary, the beer is uniformly excellent and explores enough variety to keep even adventurous pubgoers busy. While the choices on tap are generally well-executed traditional styles — bitter, light lager, pilsner, porter, Belgian tripel — there’s generally an odd one in the mix, like a peanut butter and banana porter, or the aforementioned cucumber saison.
More likely, however, you’ll visit for a combination of beer and environment. There are no TVs and no loud music, just a cozy, welcoming tasting room where the brewer will pour your beer and talk shop.
In a beer scene frequently dominated by what’s new and exciting, that’s welcome.
And at this stage of the local brewery evolution, I find it both pleasant and wise.
— Contact Justin Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG.
Avid Brew Company
1745 1st Avenue S., St. Petersburg 33712. (727) 388-6756; avidbrew.com
The vibe: A low-key, conversation-friendly brewery and tasting room.
Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $6; wine, $12.
Specialty: Low-alcohol sippers are a fixture of the tap list, with around half of the options clocking in under 5 percent by volume. Try the Bittah, a majorly sessionable take on the classic English pub brew that strikes a perfect balance of clean malt flavors with a mild, earthy hop bitterness.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.