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Bar review: Caledonia Brewing and Soggy Bottom Brewing Co. in downtown Dunedin

By Justin Grant, tbt* correspondent
Photos by Luis Santana/tbt*
Caledonia Brewing set up shop in a historic building formerly used by a local newspaper. It’s an appealing setting with vintage style — a Wurlitzer jukebox and hot rod parts, as well as games.

It happened over the course of a year or so, but St. Petersburg's brewery count seemed to more than double overnight. Remember when it was just Brewers Tasting Room, Cycle and Green Bench?

Ditto Dunedin, which welcomed two more breweries to its rapidly growing brewery scene this year, bringing the current count to seven. Considering Dunedin's size and population, this is remarkable. Remember when it was just Dunedin Brewery, 7venth Sun and House of Beer?

The newest kids on the block are Caledonia Brewing and Soggy Bottom Brewing Co., both of which opened in April. Caledonia resides in a historic building formerly used by the Dunedin Times, while Soggy Bottom occupies a business center space that's much more lively than its setting would suggest.

Despite its young age, Caledonia has the feel of a brewery that's firmly established. The historic building has been stripped down to the basics — exposed brick walls and wooden rafters, concrete floors — with long picnic tables comprising the bulk of the seating.

But there's also a fleshed-out aesthetic, featuring a unique mix of vintage gear — a Wurlitzer jukebox, hot rod parts, old cameras and radios — and games, like the retro classic Super Pong IV and various board games. Look for the Etch A Sketch behind the bar that features a nicely rendered unicorn, Caledonia's mascot.

Most noteworthy, of course, are the brewery's 16 draft beers, which cover a broad range of styles, all executed cleanly and faithfully — no small feat for beers launched right out of the gate. Brews like the Swheat Thunder cherry wheat and Scream cream ale add some subtle flair to basic styles, while beers like Rat Arsed scotch ale and Citredonia 2: Grapefruit Boogaloo IPA allow the brewery to flex its muscles a bit.

If there's any weakness here, it's in Caledonia's relatively straightforward nature of their beers, which have the potential to seem underwhelming when compared with some of the more ambitious brews that other Dunedin breweries are known for. Fortunately, the quality of Caledonia's output is high and the setting is appealing and big enough for plenty of growth, both of which bode well for the brewery's future.

Soggy Bottom's up

Just down the street is Soggy Bottom Brewing Co. (surprisingly, not an O Brother, Where Art Thou? reference), which has a looser feel than Caledonia. Located in what could easily be mistaken as a shopping plaza dive, Soggy Bottom's low ceilings and dark interior belie a fun, funky vibe, topped off with a haphazard industrial look that features bar stools fashioned from old beer kegs and license plates, and tables covered in old steel grating.

Behind the bar is a chalkboard tally of how many days the brewery's been open — it recently hit the triple digits — and a list of its offerings, which include a variety of eclectic brews, like Hint-A-Mint stout (cacao nibs and mint leaf), a toasted coconut porter and Long Summer Walk (a wheat brew flavored with blackberries).

With the addition of a pool table and a few dart boards, Soggy Bottom has all the dive bar fixings without the seediness. You're much more likely to run into a family with dogs than you are a crusty barfly, which can be a pro or con. For a walking tour of Dunedin's seven breweries, it's perfect.

To the last point, one downside to all this growth is that it's now much harder to do a full run of Dunedin breweries in a single afternoon, which is admittedly a nice problem to have. For residents, I imagine it's nice to see the city's beer growth relative to the rest of the area. To a St. Petersburger like me, it just means that I'll have to consider a few extra trips to Dunedin this year.

Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.