Green Bench Brewing Co. has some big plans in the works for St. Petersburg. The EDGE District brewery, in case you local beer buffs haven't noticed, recently embarked on its largest capital investment for upgraded infrastructure to date.
According to co-owner Nathan Stonecipher, when Green Bench was founded, he and his fellow co-owners, Steven Duffy and head brewer Khristopher Johnson, were always committed to their five-year plan and where they wanted to be. Every year since the brewery's opening in 2013, they've added small additions, but construction kicked off in late May on a new expansion project.
Green Bench's ideas for growth started two years ago. The trio began looking at other ways to implement creativity and innovation, as several other breweries had also debuted in St. Pete.
"When we looked at how the market's changed, plus how our community and neighborhood has changed, we really wanted to invest more here on-site. We wanted to focus on, 'What's important to us now and in the future?'" Stonecipher said.
Next door to their flagship facility, the expansion effort is underway at 1120 Baum Ave. N., which Green Bench was previously using for barrel and grain storage and offices. The project will triple the brewery's current beer production capacity — with help from a 100-can-per-minute packaging line — while providing Stonecipher and company with additional room to focus on their sour and wild ales, meads and ciders.
Another significant update is 3,300 square feet of temperature-controlled cellar space for oak barrel aging and more foeders, which are expected to drastically increase the mixed culture production of Green Bench.
What's more, the new barrel cellar includes a second 2,300-square-foot tasting room with two floors overlooking the production area — plus a covered, multi-level outdoor patio for events and educational classes. The patio will offer views of the brewery's improved beer garden.
The project will bring 60 more indoor seats to Green Bench, too.
"Initially, before we even opened, we assumed that after year five, we'd look at building a large production center brewery to make more beer and make it more efficiently," said Stonecipher. "As more breweries came into the marketplace, we felt it was important to focus on what sets us apart."
The brewery hasn't pinned down an exact date for the project's completion, but the owners are shooting for around Christmas. After all, a soft launch is slated for early next year. The grand opening celebration will follow in January or February — prior to Green Bench's annual Tampa Bay Beer Week event, Foeder for Thought.
"We hope this expansion allows us to continue to show beer drinkers in Florida some of the creative projects we love to do," Stonecipher said. "Hopefully, we challenge taste buds and get people to try something they've never tried before, plus elevate our customer service."