Ya gotta admit it: The Green Bench brewery in St. Pete’s EDGE District is impressive. Modern construction, roomy patio, plenty of green space for kids to play or food trucks to park.
But would it matter if the beer weren’t great? In the months since opening, head brewer Khris Johnson’s offerings have only gotten more refined and adventurous. And he’s got more in store for Tampa Bay beer lovers.
How did you get into brewing?
I was in college, and wanted a hobby. When I was younger, my dad homebrewed, and it was always sort of this: “My dad used to make beer, he seemed to enjoy it, if he can do it, I can do it.” And I tried it out, bought some equipment and started making beer. The first beer I wrote [the recipe for] and brewed myself, I won a statewide medal for. And I won a handful over the next few years.
What kinds of beers are you into brewing now?
My favorites are the types of beers we’ve won awards with, saison, Belgian beers, something I wanted to bring to the table, oak-fermented farm barrels — we won in the wood-aged category, wood-aged sours. So we were excited to win for those types of projects.
What do you think sets Green Bench apart from other brewers in the area?
It’s tough. I thnk what definitely sets us apart on the beer side is the styles of beers we’re making, we don’t have any reservations as far as... it’s not a market research thing, what the market wants. That was never a consideration. It was what are we passionate about, what can we pour that passion into? We wanted to have fun, and the more fun we have the more we care, it makes the products better and better. The goal is to make the best beer you can possibly make, and the only way to strive for that excellence every day is to care about it. The beer is made for us at the end of the day. We hope other people like it, but if we tried to make other people happy first, we would fail.
Other than that, I would definitely say the tasting room is so nice here. It’s a nice place to hang out. It’s so open, and that’s very much us. We want to be as inviting as possible, we want a friendly environment. People come, bring their kids and dogs, and we’re into that, we want to create a community around beer drinking.
Where do you hang out when you’re not here?
Cycle, St. Pete Brewing Company. I love that they’re super close, it’s a five-block bike ride. I hit up 3 Daughters pretty often, I hit up Amsterdam, Flying Pig, Ale and The Witch.
So what’s next for Green Bench?
Some cool stuff. We’re gonna release our first bottle soon, we’re only gonna do special release bottles. I’m pretty excited. One is our Cellar series, Webb’s City Cellar, named after Webb’s City drugstore in St. Pete, so it has a backstory. He used to call it the world’s most unusual drugstore. Every beer out of our climate-controlled cellar room is all wine or spirit barrel-aged sour beers.
From the first day we release one, every three months from then until forever we’ll release a new cellar beer. So four a year, forever. The first one is For the Mad Ones, a Jack Kerouac nod, rye sour brown, the base we won the gold medal for, put in cabernet savignon barrels from Sonoma County, aged eight months.
This kind of stuff has always been our goal, in the pipeline. It takes a while, you gotta get the barrels, gotta get the beer going. We were four months old when I brewed that first beer, it sits in the barrel for eight months, it takes time.
Favorite local beer that isn’t his: “I definitely don’t have one in the world. It’s impossible. I will say that recently a beer that has really blown my mind is 7venth Sun’s Time Bomb, it’s a session IPA, like 4.3 percent alcohol. It’s so good, I don’t know what to say. The first time I had it, I couldn’t believe it. Right now, that’s my jam.”
His signature Green Bench beer: “The beer that sorta comes to mind, I think we’re gonna make it again soon, that encompasses what we do, is probably our Surrealist sour IPA. It not only embodied the style of beers we were trying to make, but also the inventiveness of trying to find the balance, and an interesting nature people weren’t used to. It’s hard to say, but that would be the one.”
Green Bench Brewing
1133 Baum Ave. N., St. Petersburg