Named after the iconic green benches that have marked St. Petersburg’s downtown sidewalks since the early 1900s, Green Bench Brewing Co. paved the way for the city’s blossoming craft beer scene when it opened in 2013. With nearby Tampa Bay’s quickly growing crop of breweries and several others in the works in St. Petersburg at the time, co-owner and brewer Khris Johnson says they knew staying local—he and partner Steven Duffy are both from the city—was the right call. “Opening a brewery was a gamble, but once the property was secured, I think we were all very confident that St. Petersburg was the place for us,” he says, citing the growing beer scene as a factor in that decision. “As one brewery you create demand, but as several breweries you can create a destination.”
Three more breweries opened within a year of Green Bench’s debut, and in our Sept/Oct 2017 issue, contributing editor Josh Bernstein highlights the city as a beer destination to watch. “I think that, as a whole, we’re all making better beer than we were a couple of years ago and there are more residents drinking local craft beer,” says Johnson. “We’re all growing very quickly and it’s garnering a lot of excitement, which has given us more of an avenue to push our boundaries further, whether it be with the styles we produce, or the package formats, or the parties we throw, or the distribution footprints we explore.”
As one brewery you create demand, but as several breweries you can create a destination.
Green Bench is known for their IPAs, and Johnson says the Sunshine City IPA and Postcard Pils are stellar examples of their house style. “Sunshine is our best seller. It’s a really juicy and drinkable tropical IPA that is double dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic and Azacca,” he says, adding that half the tap wall typically features IPAs because the team are so enamored with all things hoppy. “Postcard Pils is an American Pilsner that’s true to style and very drinkable. I think we do an incredible job of making this beer very balanced yet extremely complex when it comes to the malt profile, the hops and the very nicely lagered fermentation profile.”
The brewery also taps into beer trends like wood fermentation and experimentation with yeasts and bacterias. A house culture was developed for their Saison de Banc Vert, a 100% Foeder-fermented French Saison, and Les Grisettes is part of the Brettanomyces series. “The goal of our beer program is to produce the best beers we possibly can,” Johnson says. “I believe the only way we can achieve that goal is to produce the type of beers we’re most passionate about.”
That passion extends beyond the beer and into the tasting room, which has evolved into a community hub with an outdoor beer garden and a large indoor space. Historic nods to the city abound, with vintage photos of St. Petersburg donning the bathroom walls, a bar backsplash made with former sidewalk bricks from downtown, and a bar top designed by a local concrete artist. “Our vision was to have people come in for a pint, come in for a party in the beer garden, meet with colleagues to talk business, or stop by for any other daily interaction,” says Johnson. “We’re all from St. Petersburg and we love living in this city and believe that residents here deserve the absolute best,” he says.
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