If you’re an aspiring brewer, at some point you’ve probably wondered how your product would be received in the public market. Sure, your wife/girlfriend/mom says your beer tastes “good”. And yes, your friends love it. But she’s your mom. And they’re your friends. And its free beer.
Well, if you’re not afraid to introduce your product to the often critical craft beer drinking public, Rick Wolfe wants to put your suds on tap at his new craft beer bar, Brewers’ Tasting Room (BTR). “I want this to be a launching-pad for aspiring brewers” Rick told me during a recent Sunday afternoon visit, “The word Brewers’ is both plural and possessive; this is every brewers’ tasting room. Here, we are a community of brewers.”
Located less than a mile north of Gandy Blvd on 4th St. North in St. Petersburg, BTR offers a rotating selection of craft beer that couples well with the authentic Cajun food prepared fresh in the kitchen. Walking in, eyes are immediately drawn to the 2 barrel brewing system showcased behind the copper plated bar. Prices are very reasonable ($4-$7 for appetizers, $8-$11 for large plates), especially considering the portion size; the Jambalaya was terrific and paired well with the Two Brothers Cane and Ebel I ordered.
But what makes Brewers’ Tasting Room truly unique is its emphasis on collaboration and community. There are small breweries popping up all over Florida and Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, these breweries are being born into a competitive Red Ocean marketplace; further, the quality of beers being produced varies widely. Before an aspiring brewer quits his day job, drains his life savings, and maxes out his credit cards, Rick is offering a free test trial. If you think your beer can stand up to the likes of Lagunitas, Stone and Cigar City, you can submit a sample to BTR. On a quarterly basis, Rick will contract several BJCP certified judges to, as objectively as possible, rate the submitted beers according to overall taste. If there is an exceptional beer in the lot, the brewer will be invited to back to brew in BTR’s 2 barrel system. Rick, a home-brewer for over 15 years, provides the equipment and will pay for all the ingredients in exchange for the opportunity to put that beer on one of his 10 taps devoted to aspiring local brewers. It’s of no cost to the aspiring brewer and Rick and Matthew Brown, a manager who brews some very impressive beers himself, can also aid brewing process. Sales volume for each beer will be tracked to give the brewer an idea of its true popularity.
The core of BTR’s model is about showcasing beer brewed by the community; these beers are not an afterthought, rather they are the focal point. “There’re a lot of great home-brewed beers that will never get out,” Rick says, “This tasting room will feature them.” In the true spirit of this collaboration concept, successful brewers have the opportunity to, with the help of BTR, package and distribute their product (BTR has a full distribution license). Though the community brewing has not begun on a full scale level yet, Rick imagines the enterprise will be in action by mid-to-late summer. Chris Barrs has already brewed his delightful Amber Ale in the BTR system – look for it on tap in the coming weeks.
Talking with Rick, you understand that he truly wants to help local aspiring brewers succeed. Community and family values make up his character. Though he now has two day jobs, he is quick to point out that his third job, the “number one priority”, is family. He is a loving husband and proud parent of two young kids.
Brewers’ Tasting Room has an eclectic offering of live music every Friday and Saturday. Trivia night is Tuesday and often brings in a knowledgeable craft beer crowd. Though this is far from a sports bar, BTR has two TV’s for all available sports games.
Bob Sylvester of St. Somewhere will be brewing some of his tasty stuff on the morning of Saturday, June 8th. The brewing starts at 10:00am and is followed by a “keep the glass” tasting at 2:00pm. Pulled Pork Sandwiches (souse vides style) will be served for $2.
Hope to see you there!