Pulling up to Avid Brew and Grow, you’ll see owner Jeff Keller’s 1965 rust-colored VW bus parked out front. Once inside the shop, feast your eyes on lush hydroponic gardens dripping with hot peppers and five-inch-long basil leaves. Bins containing over 50 different kinds of grains for brewing beer line a wall, along with stainless steel and glass brewing containers.
Looking to learn how to brew at home and start a small hydroponic garden? Avid has everything you need, and it’s only a few blocks outside of downtown St. Petersburg.
For 15 years, Keller managed and installed audio and video security systems. It was a stressful job, with long hours and a lot at stake for him and his clients.
“I did some soul-searching and thought, well, I love drinking beer and I love growing things,” Keller says on a rainy Friday morning. “This line of work is a lot more positive than my old job.”
Now, he spends his days at Avid with his father, Alan, who helps with the hydroponic aspect of the business. Avid opened a little over three months ago, and the business is growing quickly (as is the hydroponic garden up front).
“It’s a lot easier than you think,” Keller says of both brewing and hydroponics.
Many downtown residents don’t have the space for a full garden, and that’s where vertical and hydroponic gardens come in, says Keller. For around $50, Avid sets you up with a five-gallon “bubble bucket” complete with pump, hose and nutrients.
“It’s the same price as the Earth Box but much more consistent when it comes time to replant,” Keller says.
A cheaper version starts around $30. For higher-end setups, Avid has an entire room dedicated to hydroponics, complete with a special line of LED lights designed by Keller himself.
Brewers, amateur brewers and brewing hopefuls can get gear and guidance at Avid, too. While we’re talking, Green Bench’s head brewer Khris Johnson comes in asking to grind some grain in Keller’s mill.
“We’ve got 50 types of grains now and more every day,” Keller says. “I’ve been an amateur home brewer for three years. That’s how Sam Adams started, that’s how everyone starts.”
He references St. Pete’s rapidly expanding brewery scene; Cycle Brewing already open, Green Bench Brewing Company already brewing, and St. Pete Brewing Company opening up soon.
“My old line of work had so much competition,” Keller says. “But with the beer community it’s just like, let’s all work together.”
For anyone looking to start brewing at home, Avid has kits starting at just $20, or you can spring for a good amateur setup kit (including a stainless steel brew pot) for around $118. He’s got a number of mock kits for those looking to copycat their favorite ales.
There’s a series of brewing classes starting at Avid on Sept. 27, and Keller says he plans on bringing in guest speakers (like Johnson) and brews from local breweries.
“I’ve talked to the folks at Cycle, St. Pete Brewing, and Green Bench,” Keller says. Now that St. Petersburg has several working breweries, and its own brewery supply shop, Keller says he’s working on forming a St. Pete Brew club soon.
Avid Brew and Grow, 1745 First Ave. S., St. Petersburg, 727-388-6756, avidbrew.com.
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