Some of the best beer in St. Petersburg is coming from one of the least-known breweries in town. Owner James Coleman doesn’t mind if you call Bayboro Brewing a hidden gem – he just hopes the gigantic mural on the side of the building simply saying “BEER” with an arrow to the door will help you find the place.
Housed down the street from Urban Stillhouse at 2390 5th Avenue South, Bayboro Brewing has quietly earned a reputation over the last 18 months for crafting some of the tastiest and most unique beers in the ‘Burg. Offerings like Teufel Hunden – a peanut butter chocolate stout – and Prestonwiezen – a German-style wheat ale named for the head brewer – have helped make Bayboro a cult favorite in the local beer scene, while the constantly rotating list of seasonals on tap provides year-round variety.
Opened in March of 2020, Bayboro is a project by a pair of long-time home brewers that was years in the making – a local brewery focusing on supporting the community and crafting damn good beer. Coleman and fellow marketing professional-turned-brewer Preston Dolinger started brewing together shortly after meeting in 2016, and within a year they decided they wanted to open up their own place.
For the next three years and change, the duo perfected recipes, constantly competing in home brewing festivals and beginning to gain traction and credibility for their brewing chops. After a couple long years of searching for the right property – and then surviving through covid shutdowns that began the same month they opened – Bayboro is finally serving up the good stuff every day, 16 ounces at a time.
Bayboro introduced its full kitchen in 2021
Of course, it’s not just the cold beer that keeps people coming back. Coleman’s team has transformed the property into a laid-back and welcoming space with a cool and comfortable pub atmosphere indoors, and a bright, airy beer garden right outside. The brewery uses its space to play host to constant events with everything from trivia and live music to themed festivals and comedy shows.
And as word has started to grow, so too have the offerings. Bayboro has introduced a full kitchen featuring gastropub staples with Cajun flair and southern influences. In addition to items like loaded seafood fries, a fried chicken sandwich and a half-and-half burger (half beef, half bacon), the kitchen also cooks up rotating specials, happy hour deals and even themed pop-up restaurant events, such as their recent shrimp boil and oyster bar.
Fans of the Big Easy will be happy to hear the Sunday special, too – beignets and bacon, complete with cold beer to wash it all down.
Community support stays top of mind for ownership
However, much of why Bayboro has gained a dedicated fanbase goes far behind what they do. One of the big draws at Bayboro is how they do things.
Whether through donations to the SHINE Festival, the Black is Beautiful specialty beer release, or the “buy a vet a beer” program, Bayboro constantly places value on helping others. And, Coleman emphasizes, they mean really helping others, and doing so in a way that you can actually see.
“In a lot of situations, I think people give money or participate in an event, but they never actually see anything done or see the fruits of their labor,” Coleman explained. “We want to make that connection so that everybody knows who they’re helping in the local community. It’s always hyper local to help somebody here, so that the community can see the effects of those donations.”
Bayboro’s Black is Beautiful beer, for example, raised money for the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum located just down the street. Four times per year, the brewery hosts veteran appreciation days where they open a tab and veterans are invited to come enjoy the free drinks that customers bought for them. Beer and food are supposed to be communal, Coleman believes, and this is Bayboro’s way to make the connection honest and real.
“We’re a community brewery,” he said. “We’re not a one individual brewery. We support everybody. That’s what I love about St. Pete. We are a mini melting pot. It’s neat to see all these people come together and come to breweries.”
Bayboro taps into local, personal military history with themed beers and artwork
While veterans are only one of the many communities Bayboro supports, the brewery does pay strong homage to St. Pete’s military history and has ties of its own through Coleman’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Local history buffs will know that Bayboro Harbor, next to the USF St. Pete campus, once played home to a key naval base and a training area for merchant seamen. The brewery has a beer it christened “The St. Pete Blackout” as a nod to the time when the city enforced a blackout so as not to be seen by German U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico during World War II. Even the beer label artwork has a military theme, with old school pin-up girl and promotional poster designs created by Coleman’s wife as a tip of the hat to WWII-era artwork.
The future is bright for St. Pete’s hidden gem
While Bayboro’s location off the beaten path has kept them a little more under the radar, their combination of great beer, fun events and a supportive, family-style community atmosphere is slowly turning the hidden gem into one of the brightest jewels in St. Pete’s deep collection of craft breweries.
Bayboro is confident in what it does (and how does it), and already the brewery has started distributing its products, available at several restaurants and bars in the area. The only thing they have to do now, Coleman joked, is make sure people can actually find the place.
“We do events and people are like, ‘Where the hell is Bayboro?’ People ask what city we’re in,” he said with a laugh. “But I think the community has responded well to us. I‘m just champing at the bit to see us stand on our own two feet and exhale a little bit. We’re excited to see what 2022 brings. Hopefully it’s a continuation of what we’re seeing.”
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