Florida, surprisingly, has an important place in the history of aviation.
The year was 1914.
People wanting to travel from St Petersburg to Tampa did not have the selection of bridges making the trip as easy as it is to do today. It was a several hour affair, either by slow boat, train, or car going the long way around the bay.
Electrical engineer Percy Fansler built an airline out of to sea planes and shuttled people willing to pay the $5 fare from St Petersburg to Tampa in the unheard of time of only 22 minutes. The airline was Benoist Airlines, and flew planes supplied by airplane manufacturer Thomas Benoist.
Those planes were usually flown by commercial pilot Tony Jannus, a name familiar with those in-the-know in the Tampa Bay Beer community. While Tony has gotten his due, the rest of the airline is lost to the annals of aviation history.
But St. Petersburg is trying to change that. They are currently in the works of raising funds for a Memorial Park to celebrate the world’s first commercial airline, and you can see all of that information plus the history of this aviation company at the relatively new Flying Boat Brewery, also in St Petersburg.
Entering the brewery, every single available wall is full of either local artwork or pictures and interpretive plaques, expertly curated by the Saint Petersburg Museum of History. You can see the boats, the people behind the airline, and get an idea for what St. Petersburg looked like in 1914.
It’s quite an awesome facility, and a really fun use of an already storied location. When it opened in 1978, the building started as an industrial laundromat back, mainly doing linens for nearby Saint Anthony’s Hospital. After a couple changes in ownership it had actually, for a short time, operated as a film studio. Nothing too terribly major, mostly infomercials.
The brewer is owned by Glenn and Tanner Zakany, a father-and-son team that own and operate Flying Boat with Glenn’s son-in-law Josh Perian. The expansive brewing system is operated by Brewmaster Tyler Singletary, previously with Southern Brewing & Wine Making.
I chatted with Josh as he was enjoying a promo pack of popcorn from florida brewery darlings Brown Bag Popcorn Company, and he gave me a little bit of the background of not only the brewery but of their interest in local history as well.
What amazes me about Flying Boat is that their brew master Tyler is, in essence, a one man show. He does all the brewing and the cleaning, which is why I was unable to chat with him the day I visited since he was making one batch and racking two others at the same time.
In terms of the beers that Tyler makes, he’s got a great, varied tap list full of styles that will appeal to anybody going to the brewery. With the exception of a few barrel-aged numbers, and a double IPA, he keeps the alcohol levels intentionally low so people can come in and enjoy a few during an afternoon.
Or, like me, you can get a flight. And the word flight, at this brewery at least, takes on a completely different seeing as it has one of the most inventive flight boards that I’ve ever seen. Yes, I did make airplane noises as I went to my table, mostly because I was told by the beertender that pretty much everybody as well. Here’s what’s on the flight board – no pun intended – from left to right:
Crescent Lake (Pale Lager, 4.7% ABV, 9 IBU) – Lightly biscuity with a moderately earthy hoppy quality lying just underneath the surface.
Horizon Line (Witbier, 5% ABV, 12 IBU) – Refreshing, a noticeable but not overpowering citrus quality is electrified expertly with the coriander and light wheat qualities.
The Fourteen (Robust Porter, 5.2% ABV, 30 IBU) – Robust is right. Massive notes of oak and coffee in a bold and murky porter.
Red Sky at Night (Red Ale, 6.1% ABV, 56 IBU) – There’s an interesting combination of raisin and slight caramel notes layered with a perky and citric hop undercurrent.
After we chatted, Josh got me a taste of what is one of their signature beers, interestingly enough, an American mild ale named Woodlawn Pub Ale (Mild Ale, 4.1% ABV, 23 IBU).
The previous month was Mild Ale Month, and this beer has become a surprisingly rare style to find worldwide. In the US, it was a very popular beer during the Edwardian era, and was all but eradicated during prohibition. At this point, there are only 40 breweries in the United States that make a mild ale year-round, Flying Boat being the only one of those in the state of Florida.
I’m a big fan of history, as anybody reading the blog knows. It was nice to find this geographically hidden gem of the St Petersburg beer scene, something I did not anticipate but was very happy to see. With the incredible facility, fantastic hospitality, and great beer, it’s a brewery I hope to get to again very soon.
I’ll even pay the $5 fare to get across the bay.
Drink Florida Craft,