Pinellas Ale Works is one of the newer breweries in the rapidly expanding St. Petersburg brewing scene. Situated in the shadow of Tropicana Field, PAW has quickly risen through the ranks with an emphasis on quality brews, culminating with a silver medal for their Milk Bone Stout and the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.
I recently spoke to co-founder Dennis Decker about St. Petersburg, territoriality, and Jim the brewery dog.
When did you first discover craft beer? What was the beer that really opened your eyes to brewing?
I first discovered Craft Beer about 10 years ago. I can’t say there was one beer that opened my eyes, I just enjoyed the variety of flavors Craft Beer offered.
When did you start brewing?
I started home brewing in 2008 and became addicted pretty quickly. We’ve been brewing here at PAW for almost 2 years.
What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?
We have 6-8 core beers on tap most of the time, but I would say Milk Bone is probably our signature beer. From early on I really enjoyed the Milk Stout style and I was determined to brew one I liked as much as what I was buying in the store. It took me a few years, but I accomplished my goal.
How did you come about finding your brewing space?
St Pete is a great city so there was no doubt this was where we wanted to be. We were able to find an affordable spot just outside the city that was big enough for future expansion. We have 3 buildings- one houses the brewery and tap room, one is under construction and will soon be an event space adjacent to the beer garden, and the third will be used for additional fermentation space, and possibly a kitchen.
How do you get inspiration in developing recipes and names for your beers?
Most of our recipes were developed over years as home brewers, although we still do a lot of experimentation with our pilot brewing system. We love dogs here, so the dog names are a no-brainer for us.
What was the inspiration behind the name of your brewery?
The acronym for Pinellas Ale Works is PAW… Need I say more?
There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for this people?
Follow your dreams and do what you love!
Do you see an end to the recent Florida craft beer boom?
I hope not!
The first time I went to PAW, I was amazed how close you are to two other breweries, with one directly across the intersection from you. Does that ever make things awkward?
We have a good relationship with the other local breweries. When we started working on building the brewery, we had no idea we’d have another one right across the street. It’s worked out well though, since people can park in one spot and walk to multiple breweries.
St. Pete is fast becoming a brewing-focused city. Why do you think so many people have opened up shop there?
For us, we enjoy the artsy side of the city, and locally made Craft Beer fits right in. It’s a good sized city, but it’s small enough to experience by bike or on foot, which is nice.
Any collaborations with your neighbors coming soon?
There’s nothing in the works at the moment, but I have some ideas I’d like to pursue when I get some time.
Your tap room is the place to find your bomber and six-pack releases right now. Any future plans for distribution?
We distribute our Milk Bone, Sit, Piddle Pils, Harold’s Lager, and some limited releases right now in Pinellas County. We’ll be expanding into the Tampa and Bradenton/ Sarasota areas soon.
At this point, are there people that come in specifically to see Jim?
Absolutely! There’s a one beer minimum to pet him though…
Drink Florida Craft,