Some local breweries maintain such a dominant presence in particular style categories that it's easy to forget there are others out there. For example, when imperial stouts come up, who doesn't automatically think Cigar City, Cycle and Angry Chair?
It was a bit of a surprise, then, when St. Petersburg's Pinellas Ale Works (1962 First Ave. S )took home a gold medal at March's Best Florida Beer Championships for its 1888 Russian Imperial Stout.
The name refers to June 8, 1888, when the first train arrived at the southernmost stop on the Orange Belt Railway in Pinellas County, on the railroad built by Peter Demens. Demens, of course, subsequently named the town St. Petersburg — after the town in Russia where he spent much of his childhood.
Russian imperial stouts are easy beers to make competently, but they're tremendously difficult to make exceptionally. 1888 is a world-class example of the style done right: rich, viscous and roasty, with bold coffee and cocoa flavors all melding together into a shockingly smooth 11.5 percent alcohol by volume brew. This is an impressive achievement for a young, little-hyped brewery.
File this one under sleeper hit and grab a 22-ounce bottle or try it on draft at Pinellas Ale Works' tasting room. There's also a bourbon barrel-aged version, available in 12-ounce bottles.
— Justin Grant. Have a suggestion for the Local Craft Beer of the Week? Brewers, have a limited release coming that we should know about? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG.