It’s always nice to meet the person behind the beer that you’re drinking.
Not that the beer isn’t good, but you get that additional enjoyment out of knowing the background and purpose behind the beers that you’re enjoying.
And so it was on a recent trip to St Petersburg I sat down with Dennis Decker, co-owner and brew master at Pinellas Ale Works. As is a common story in modern craft beer, Dennis had been brewing for several years at home, honing his talents on traditional German styles that he (and I) are fond of.
After a little while, and a little real estate searching, he found a collection of three buildings occupying the corner of 1st Ave. and 20th St. in St Pete, not too far from Tropicana Field. At this point, all three buildings are actually in operation. I was only familiar with the main building housing the taproom & brewhouse. Another building has actually just been renovated and turned into a rather nice event space. The third one is currently being used for storage, but Dennis does say that there are some plans in the work.
One thing that I found interesting is that the dog theme of the brewery was not the main focus to begin with. For those of you not completely familiar with Pinellas Ale Works, they’re relatively famous in Florida craft beer for having such inventive canine-themed beer names as Piddle, Sit, and Milk Bone.
The theme was actually a happy afterthought . As it is, they are one of the most dog friendly breweries in the state, and Dennis’ dog Jim is usually around. He was taking a nap in the brewhouse when I was there, so I didn’t get to say hello.
Dennis showed me several of his new beers, and a couple of old standard favorites that he’s been working on. Here’s what I was able to try:
Barrel Aged Play Dead (Barleywine, 12% ABV, 90 IBU) – Very thick and chewy, with big notes of raisin and plum, along with a cocoa undertone. Aging in Four Roses Bourbon barrels brings a warming booziness. This is not a standard beer for Dennis, as he stated that his preference is for easy drinking beers that you can have a couple of during a visit. He’s joining a long list of brewers that I have spoken to that are starting to Echo the sentiment. While it’s fun to make big, bold beers that clock in over 10%, they would rather make something that visitors can come in and have a couple of, making their visit into an afternoon.
Schwarzhound (Black Lager, 5% ABV, 25 IBU) – Surprisingly light brew with some great coffee and chocolate notes.
Pawbock (Maibock, 7.1% ABV, 41 IBU) – This is a staple of PAW and a great illustration of how good Dennis is with traditional German styles. This has fruity, almost apple notes with a caramel forward malt profile.
Puppy Love (NEIPA, 7% ABV, 50 IBU) – Ah, yes, the classis New England IPA. It’s chocked full of light citrus notes and a moderate amount of dank, resiny qualities.
Speaking of German styles, one thing that Dennis and I definitely agree on is our love for the Marzen, and our belief that it should be out year-round and not relegated strictly to October. That’s why I was able to try his Festbier (Marzen, 5.8% ABV, 28 IBU), still on tap. He knows how to brew a good one. This has a slightly strong body with a good balance between moderate caramel flavors and earthy sort of hop quality. And I don’t care who disagrees, this is a beer that needs to be around all year long. This was an easy growler purchase for me. And maybe, if we’re very, very lucky, we can have this as another can release from Pinellas Ale Works. I can hope.
It’s always a treat to go into the green building on the corner to enjoy some of what Pinellas Ale Works has to offer. It’s not something I get to do very often, unfortunately, so I will definitely take advantage whenever I can.
And if I ever get a dog, I will bring them, too.
Drink Florida Craft,