From the Mermaid Tavern to Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe and the Refinery to the Independent, a string of bars and restaurants along Florida and Nebraska Avenues in Seminole Heights invites residents to pull up a bar stool and enjoy a craft beer (or two).
Now Southern Brewing and Winemaking
-- a supply shop for DIY brewing enthusiasts housed in a 6,000 square-foot building at 4500 N. Nebraska Ave. -- entices customers from the up-and-coming neighborhood and beyond to brew their own.
The four-year-old business is the brainchild of Brian and Kelly Fenstermacher, the husband-and-wife team who co-own Southern, as regulars call the store. In June 2008, the Fenstermachers launched the business as Southern Brewing Supply in a warehouse on Busch Boulevard, then sold it to a national company, Brewers Supply Group.
The Nebraska Avenue store, open since January, builds on the old venture's reputation but expands into new territory with an on-site beer-sampling bar, an outdoor beer garden and plans for a small-scale brewery and winery.
The multipart business aims to satisfy customer cravings for the creative experience of hands-on brewing and the social pleasures of sharing and talking about beer, the Fenstermachers say. In addition to shelves stocked with brewing supplies (from buckets and funnels to dozens of types of hops and yeast), Southern's interior is outfitted with a cluster of four-person tables and a bar; the outdoor beer garden is open as a work-in-progress, with landscaping expected to be complete in August.
"It's a very social hobby. Seventy-five percent of the people who start home-brewing learn it from a friend,'' Kelly Fenstermacher says.
For novices, Southern offers beginning beer-making classes and an entry-level home-brew kit ($68 for equipment, plus $35-60 for ingredients) that makes two cases of beer.
You Can Brew Your Own Beer
"You can make fantastic beer at home on your first try,'' says Brian Fenstermacher, who brewed for eight years at Atlanta Brewing Company before co-founding Southern. Kelly's background includes 25 years in banking with Wells Fargo; the couple met at a Belgian beer festival in Atlanta in 1995.
To prove the process isn't difficult, the Fenstermachers are planning to build a small brewery (the equivalent of a large home-brew set-up) at Southern by June. They won’t distribute the beer they produce but instead will use the facility and its product -- as well as a matching winery, scheduled to be open in July -- to educate customers about the art of brewing. The winery will focus on producing fruit wines -- e.g., made from strawberries, grapefruit and elderberry -- along with cider and mead fermented from local honey. The store also carries cheese-making kits and will sell coffee-roasting supplies in the future.
The Fenstermachers, who live in nearby Riverside Heights, were attracted to Seminole Heights by its recent emergence as a destination for food and drink lovers. Their market, however, extends far beyond the neighborhood -- Southern boasts the largest selection of brewing ingredients in the Southeast.
On Saturday, May 19, the store hosts a “Barks and Brews Yappy Hour” for dog (and beer) lovers from 4-7 p.m. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit Lost Angels Animal Rescue
, which will bring adoptable rescue dogs to the event.
Megan Voeller of Tampa is a contributing writer to 83 Degrees Media and the visual art critic for Creative Loafing. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.