The stretch of Alt 19 in northern Pinellas County where Palm Harbor butts up against Ozona may not seem like an ideal place to launch a hip new business. But the three friends who opened Stilt House Brewery less than eight weeks ago saw two factors that could work in their favor: a location that would make Stilt House the northernmost craft beer joint on the Pinellas Trail, and a captive audience that didn’t want to have to travel to get decent suds.
“The people of Ozona are fantastic, and they’ve told us they don’t like to go places,” says brewer Sean Greelish. “They have golf carts, they’d rather ride right up here than get in their cars and drive to Dunedin.”
“A guy came in, counting his footsteps,” adds Jeff Domb, who handles the management side of things. “He said it was less than 500 steps from his front door to the barstool.”
The sunny, inviting tasting room — boasting colorful marine murals from its former life as a dive shop — sits right alongside the Trail, inviting cyclists and walkers in for a break and a cold one. Greelish, Domb and third partner Sam Price understand that, with its origins in picturesque locations like the northeast, northwest and Colorado, craft beer’s relationship with outdoor activities is a close one.
“The connection between the Trail and beer can’t be overstated,” Greelish avers.
Greelish has been crafting his own beer since before he could legally buy it. A couple of years’ worth of cookout and pub conversations among the three friends culminated in the decision to open their own place. Many long days turned into longer nights as they worked on the bar after finishing their day jobs. Friends traded labor for beer, and they benefited from the support system for which Tampa Bay’s brewing community is quickly becoming known. Greelish succeeded in putting 10 beers on tap in the first six weeks Stilt House was open, and his high-ABV brews are getting noticed by the local community, and beyond.
The trio has ambitions of commercial production in the future, but for now they’re content to be doing what they love for a living.
“We made a place where we’d like to sit and have a beer,” says Domb.
“[Making beer] is the thing I’ve done longest in my life,” says Greelish. “It just seemed to make sense to make this my final line of work.”
Favorite local beer that isn’t theirs: Jeff: “The truth is, ever since we knew Sean could make good beer, the question was, why would we go buy something else if we could make something better? But I do like Cigar City’s White Oak Jai Alai.” Sam: “I really like 3 Daughters, their range of beers is really nice. If I want to get crazy, I’ll go see Greg Rapp [of Rapp Brewing].”
Their signature Stilt House Beer: Sean: “The interesting thing about the three of us is we all like different kinds of beer. I had a stout recipe, but I don’t like stout, so I never made it. Jeff had a stout recipe, and he likes it, so we put the recipes together and made a milk stout. It was the first beer we sold out of.”
Stilt House Brewery
625 U.S. Alt. 19, Palm Harbor