St. Pete Brews Up more than Beer

By: Colleen Lachnicht

Big things are brewing in St. Petersburg, and it’s not just business. The entrepreneurial and tech boom in St. Pete has piqued interest in many business owners, but what sets it apart from other start-up cities is the quality of life it offers to owners and employees alike.

With a vibrant arts scene, weekly markets, and a dynamic foodie experience ranging from fine dining to food trucks, it seems fitting that St. Pete is also home to a diverse brewing industry that is gaining national attention. Visitors and residents alike enjoy more than just St. Pete’s seemingly endless craft beer options. Kava, kefir, kombucha, and coffee dot the hand-crafted brewing culture of the city.

Businesses that brew outside the craft beer realm have made big names for themselves, carving out loyal followings that have made expansion possible for many businesses. Florida’s largest independent coffee roaster, Kahwa Coffee, opened its first retail cafe in St. Petersburg in 2008 and has since expanded to have 12 shops throughout the St. Pete-Tampa area, with a new St. Pete location made from up-cycled shipping containers on the horizon. Black Crow Coffee is another local favorite whose success in their original Old Northeast location enabled them to open a second shop in the Grand Central District. A similar story holds true for Bandit Coffee Co., which will be opening their own roasting facility later this year.

Brewing success in St. Pete extends into more uncommon territory, too. Mother Kombucha has become a household name in St. Pete, and their local success has led them to stocking their product all over the country, from Florida to California to Maine.  A more recent addition to the brewing scene, Sunny Culture and their kefir (sparkling probiotic water) have enjoyed similar success, being distributed from Miami to St. Pete. Even kava and kratom are widespread in the city, with community cafes like Bula and Grassroots creating spaces to recreate and unwind.

With so much brewing in St. Petersburg, there’s big demand for industry professionals and equipment. To help meet this demand, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg launched their Brewing Arts Program in 2015, providing future brewers with in-depth training on brewing processes and business ownership.

In addition to industry education, St. Petersburg businesses also supply industry demand for equipment. KegConnect’s keg leasing program enables emerging breweries to get products onto the scene without significant up-front costs, leveling the playing field between smaller breweries and bigger producers. The city is also home to BrewFab, a metal fabricator engineering and manufacturing custom configurations for breweries in St. Pete and around the country.

With 12 craft breweries in St. Petersburg’s downtown area alone, it seems as though a brewery lies outside everyone’s front door. From large, nationally distributed breweries like 3 Daughters to small batch breweries like If I Brewed the World, there’s a beer and an atmosphere for everyone. One of the biggest draws of St. Pete’s craft beer scene is the walkability amongst breweries - beer lovers can leave the keys at home and plan a walking route between breweries in any of St. Pete’s unique business and arts districts.

The City of St. Pete works hard to ensure craft brewers are here for the long haul, emphasizing a business-friendly environment that in-turn provides local  employees with a one-of-a-kind place to play. The brewing scene in St. Petersburg - from kefir to kava to craft beer - is a huge draw for young, top talent that fuels future businesses. Every day feels like a vacation when you’re surrounded by breweries, coffee shops, museums, and waterfront parks in the Sunshine City.