By Justin Grant
Saturday is Gasparilla, the huge pirate party and parade that ensures downtown Tampa will be mobbed with people and traffic all day.
The good news is there are plenty of bars to slip into if you wish to take a break from the larger crowds. The bad news is that there will likely be more than a few people with the same idea.
Take the Pour House. Opened less than a year ago, this popular downtown beer joint features an array of quality craft beers; the draft menu boasts 40 options, with another 60 or so brews available in bottles. There's a small but high-quality wine menu, and the bar sells packaged beer as well, with six-packs to go for a reasonable price.
It had been a rough day when I visited the Pour House, and I was looking forward to a place that was more relaxed and casual than the average South Tampa drinking establishment, a place where I could kick back and enjoy a few craft beers and some nice conversation. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Pour House, hidden behind the Grand Central condos on Kennedy. I'm not sure if anyone else was there to unwind after a long day, but if so, they were in good company — the place was packed.
Located in the Channel District, the Pour House fits in with its surroundings, with exposed ducts, picture windows and minimalist paintings and decor that you'd expect to find in the nearby dwellings. Despite the crowd, the place really did have a relaxed vibe, partly due to the abundance of couch and lounge chair seating. Pour House feels like a posh Channelside condo that just happens to have an impressive beer selection for guests.
I ordered a sampler, which came in a small, wooden panel that holds four 4-ounce glasses. I'm a sucker for samplers — why order one large beer when you can have four small ones?
The staff was knowledgeable, and I could tell I was dealing with fellow beer nerds. There are quite a few unique beers on the menu, including several local varieties. Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere, Dunedin Brewery and Tampa's Cigar City all have selections in the lineup.
The prices were also fair, with most drafts about $5, and wines following suit. In between beers, I snacked on the complimentary popcorn, popped fresh every few minutes from an old-fashioned machine that proved to be popular with the patrons. It's a great way to clear the palate while making your way through a few bold, flavorful brews.
I'm not always big on crowds, but the one at Pour House seemed to be onto something. The place doesn't specialize in gimmicks, just good beer and wine in a comfortable setting. As it turned out, it was a nice end to an otherwise lackluster day. I'm sure this weekend will be interesting, to say the least, so if you find yourself in the midst of pirates and partiers, consider stopping in to Pour House for a great beer and a brief escape from the day.
Justin Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.