When award-winning brewer Khris Johnson joined partners Steven Duffy and Nathan Stonecipher to open Green Bench Brewing Company in 2013, the St. Petersburg natives knew it would be a challenge. Known as a place for the very old and very young, the city wanted for a well-defined beer culture. When they found a sprawling warehouse building in the emerging EDGE District, Johnson knew it was the right blank canvas to make his case for craft beer and ensure that the city’s first microbrewery wouldn’t be its last.
What first drew you to craft beer?
It wasn’t the beer, but the people who were into beer. I saw people from every walk of life, different demographics, and age groups that were so excited and passionate about this thing. I fell in love with that culture, with a group of people, the mindset they had, the love they showed one another, and the passion they shared.
You were studying medicine before you started home brewing. What part of the process captured your attention?
Endless knowledge. One of the fascinating things about the medical field is that you’ll spend your life trying to figure things out. You’ll never have an answer for everything. I like waking up in the morning trying to solve something, and beer afforded that. I will live my life and die without knowing everything there is to know about beer. It’s so detailed, vast, and complicated, and always evolving and changing.
The EDGE District has developed rapidly since the brewery launched in 2013. How was Green Bench a catalyst for that change?
We were part of the culture created in this area. Businesses that opened around us worked really hard to instill that. Collectively we built something pretty special that’s still growing.
What sets St. Petersburg apart as a brewing town? How does your beer reflect that?
Our lifestyle revolves around weather. We just invented a new style of beer called the Florida-style IPA to drink in Florida. They’re hazy and cloudy. Part of it is the yeast culture we use, which promotes stone-fruit characteristics amazing for this climate. It starts hoppy and fruit forward, transitions into acidic and tart just like a fruit would, then it comes back to dry and softly bitter, and finishes with a smooth dryness.