"Have you been to Green Bench yet?"
That's the question most St. Petersburg residents and local beer fans have been asking. The Best of the Bay award-winning Green Bench Brewing Co. opened last Wednesday after months of construction and anticipation. Upon entering the brewery, guests were greeted with hardwood decor, exposed light bulbs, and a line of taps pouring Green Bench's own brand of brews.
"It feels good to finally give people beer instead of just talking about it," head brewer Khris Johnson told CL. "It's nice to actually give people a pint."
Just outside, there is a beer garden flush with bright green grass and Adirondack chairs where guests can rest under draped white lights and an open sky. There are also tables with bench seats on a quaint patio, and cornhole boards.
And in an ode to St. Petersburg and the brewery's namesake, there's a line of St. Pete's iconic green benches.
"We wanted to blow people out of the water from the first moment they stepped inside," founder Nathan Stonecipher told CL (Stonecipher and partner Steven Duffy founded and built the brewery). "Now we can focus entirely just on brewing good beer for St. Pete."
Duffy, along with Johnson and Stonecipher, spent months doing the construction (and working with the city writing codes needed for a large-scale St. Pete brewery) needed to convert the 1926 mechanics garage into a brewery.
"Steve and I have been working so long on this, I never thought this day would come," Stonecipher said. "It's overwhelming to see people from the community here that have never seen this place before. It's pretty exciting. I thank everyone for their patience.'
Green Bench currently has five brews on tap: Green Bench IPA, Maximo Milk Stout, Temple Mound Brown Ale, Skyway Wheat, and Saison de Banc Vert.
"This has been a massive learning experience and I'm still learning every day," Johnson said. "It's refreshing, now that construction is over, to do what I do. There's a huge learning curve and I've never brewed on a 15-barrel system. There's definitely more tweaking needed and I want to get better every time I brew."
One of the newest additions to the Green Bench brewing system is a custom built oak fermenter, called a "foudre," used to brew traditional Belgian beers. Green Bench is just one of nearly a dozen breweries with their own oak-fermenter.
"Most people are using these to do sours," Johnson said of the foudre. "We're doing traditional Belgian fermentation. It's a gamble and weird but it'll add a cool complexity and get back that traditional farmhouse flavor."
Green Bench's hours are Wednesday-Thursday, 3-10 p.m.; Friday, 2 p.m.-12 a.m.; Saturday 12 p.m.-12 a.m.; and Sunday, 12-10 p.m. Brewery tours are available Saturday from 12-4 p.m.