Saturday, September 22, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: New St. Pete breweries have sour power

It took a few years, but downtown St. Petersburg is officially ready for a pair of manageable brewery crawls, thanks to the recent openings of Overflow Brewing Company and Inoculum Ale Works.

The two breweries bridge the gap between Green Bench, Cycle and St. Pete Brewing — making a new five-brewery crawl a reality for the eastern downtown stretch. Meanwhile, the nearby Grand Central District has a four-unit option of its own: 3 Daughters, Pinellas Ale Works, Cage and Right Around the Corner.

The first of the new additions, Overflow, is helmed by Troy Bledsoe, fresh off a four-year stint at Rapp Brewing, a brewery that has served as a launchpad for brewers who went on to found Largo’s Arkane Aleworks and Dunedin Woodwright.

Bledsoe’s experience at Rapp gives him a solid cred in both the traditional European category — a specialty at the former brewery — and in Berliner and gose-style sour ales, the latter being the primary focus of Overflow. Of the brewery’s 16 taps, a third are dedicated to sour ales: some in-house, and some from guest breweries, including Coppertail, Tampa Beer Works and Big Top.

The atmosphere at Overflow is laid-back, with Lego tap handles and little Lego placards with your bartender’s name. There’s a long granite bar up front, joined by a corner room with sofas and TVs. The walls are adorned with vivid, colorful local art, and that’s just on the inside. Outside, James Oleson has begun work on what’s being billed as "St. Peterburg’s first 3-D mural." The interior artwork is pretty wild with a pair of 3-D glasses on, too — ask your bartender for a pair.

The beers at Overflow are brewed in nano-sized batches, and rotation is quick. Expect to find new beers on each visit, but there will always be dependable basics — the roasty
E. Watson brown ale or the Substitute Fluffer hefeweizen — on tap.

The sour brews include a range of inventive kettle-soured beers, like My Diabolical Plan, a Berliner weisse flavored with beets, lemon and ginger; or Paper Airplane, a Berliner flavored with herbal tea infused with hibiscus, elderberries, apples and strawberries. These are some real warm-weather beers.

Two blocks away, almost directly next to St. Pete Brewing, is Inoculum Ale Works, brainchild of owner-brewer Nick Moench, who was behind the quirky wild ales in the brewhouse of Spring Hill’s Saint Sebastian Belgian Microbrewery before it closed.

Inoculum’s claim to fame is its status as Florida’s first sour-only brewery. Even CAE, Inoculum’s New England-style IPA, is soured with lactobacillus bacteria, adding a citrusy twang to the hazy IPA.

Inoculum’s tasting room is starkly minimal, with gray walls, concrete floors and black ceilings. There’s a small, living room-style setup in the front with adjustable lab tables. In the back is a bar with the beer menu displayed on the wall via an overhead projector like your high school teacher used. A lo-fi hip-hop playlist completes the mega-chill vibe.

The brewery’s eight taps are available in full or half pours, as well as "splashes" in place of free samples, at $1 a pop, with half of the proceeds going to charity. A suspender-clad bartender will help you navigate the menu of exotic brews, which range from Kuebiko, the brewery’s popular strawberry-lemon-lime wild ale; to Mother Ursa, a pleasantly tart brown ale that resembles an oud bruin in color and taste, but with a focused, clean finish. There’s even a sour pilsner, brewed in collaboration with Orlando’s Orange Blossom Brewing Co. Orange Blossom’s founder and brewer, Tom Moench, is Nick’s dad.

These new sour-focused breweries are a welcome addition to the downtown St. Pete brewery scene. I expect that they’ll do well for themselves, as well as prove to be a boon for their neighbors.

After all, who doesn’t like a good brewery crawl?

IF YOU GO

Overflow Brewing Company

770 1st Ave. N, St. Petersburg 33701. (727) 914-0665 facebook.com/overflowbrewingco

The vibe: A colorful, low-key tap room specializing in sour beers and well-crafted European styles.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer $5-$7; wine, $6-$8.

Specialty: Overflow stocks a nice balance of traditional brews, like its Citra-, Cascade-, Centennial- and Amarillo-hopped IPA Spacepants, as well as a variety of Berliner and gose-style beers flavored with fruits and vegetables ranging from passion fruit and black currants to beets and ginger.

Hours: 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-midnight Friday-Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday.

Inoculum Ale Works

554 1st Ave. N, St. Petersburg 33701. inoculumaleworks.com

The vibe: A minimalist tasting room focusing exclusively on sour and wild ales.

Booze: Beer, $6.

Specialty: Try Kuebiko, a strawberry-lemon-lime wild ale originally brewed to benefit the victims of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub; or go for CAE, a soured interpretation of a New England-style IPA.

Hours: 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.

   
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