Spirits: Cheers to the Tampa Bay Area's Craft Beer Scene

Beer drinkers are fortunate to have dozens of craft breweries from which to choose when finding their new favorite local beers here in the Tampa Bay area, including Green Bench Brewing Co. in St. Pete.

When asked why the area is such a hotbed for craft breweries, Green Bench co-owner Nathan Stonecipher cited, “ …we have a bit more of an entrepreneurial culture here. There are people willing to take a risk and do something unique, that’s a passion of theirs rather than a traditional career path.

“Cigar City set the bar high when they first opened,” said Stonecipher. “There was a home brewing culture here in the area, to begin with, and a lot of people were interested in brewing. When Cigar City opened, it was sort of a catalyst to get people thinking, ‘Hey, I can do this, too.”

Stonecipher and his business partner Steven Duffy were homebrewing hobbyists themselves, as was Green Bench’s head brewer Khris, who learned more about the industry when he worked for Cigar City and Southern Brewing and Winemaking before making his way to St. Pete.

“Without a doubt, there’s a great camaraderie among the area’s breweries,” said Stonecipher. “Brewers are a sharing, friendly group of people. You get help opening your brewery, and you help out the guy who’s coming up after you. It’s an outstanding industry to be in.

“Right now, and it’s true here in Florida as well as in other states, we see it as we’re in this together,” Stonecipher said. “We still have such a small piece of the market share; we’re not going after each other’s customers, just creating more craft brew fans.”

According to Stonecipher, “At Green Bench, we’re focused on challenging beers that are unique and push the status quo of flavor profiles.” He went on to say that the brewery uses two custom-built oak foeders, or fermentation tanks, to ferment all of their Belgian and farmhouse ales, and may be the only brewery in Florida currently using the technique. Their strategy is working – of those that Green Bench brews, Stonecipher noted that the brewery’s most popular beers are Sunshine City IPA and Les Grisettes.

To see what’s on tap at Green Bench, visit greenbenchbrewing.com, and for a comprehensive overview of the craft brewery scene in the Tampa Bay area, visit www.thebrewerybay.com.

Green Bench Brewing Co., which opened in downtown St. Pete late-2013, was named in tribute to the city’s early–1900s history when it was known as the “City of Green Benches.”
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