I recently caved and downloaded yet another social networking app for my phone. This one — Untappd — tracks different beers that I've had around town. It utilizes a Foursquare-like interface to let friends know what I've been drinking, including a micro-review of each beer and an optional location. This does little but add more unnecessary complication to my life, of course, but it's fun to compare notes with my beer nerd friends both locally and across the country.
On one recent night, my Untappd check-ins were fairly traditional — Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen and Spaten Optimator (Oktoberfest does start this weekend, after all). The location: McAnderson's House of Brews, a small beer bar located in Lutz that is quite non-traditional.
By that, I mean it's not what one generally expects from a craft beer bar. Patrons are as likely to come for the food and NFL games as they are for the beer, and $2 Miller Lites and Coors Lights are proudly served alongside Chimay and Blanche de Bruxelles. Flavored mojitos, colorful martinis and a variety of specialty shots adorn the cocktail list. In other words, it has mainstream appeal.
With 24 taps and more than 50 bottles, this is indeed a House of Brews. But McAnderson's feels more like a sports bar and casual restaurant than it does a dedicated beer garden. My traditional German beer choices in a modern American sports bar are perhaps an unintentional metaphor for how far craft beer culture has been embraced by the mainstream. In an unintimidating environment like this, the average Joe (or Jane) is likely to venture beyond the usual comfort zone, possibly discovering a newfound appreciation for quality brews in the process. To me, this is unequivocally a good thing.
Of course, McAnderson's is already a pretty easy place to like. There are no gimmicks, just a comfortable, straightforward setup and a wide variety of drinks to choose from. The interior is small and laid out in a smart manner — one row of booths along the wall, a row of high-tops in the middle, and bar seating at the bar, which runs the length of the opposite wall. White tiles, red walls, black ceiling, and little yellow-orange hanging lamps illuminating an otherwise dark interior. The remaining light comes from several 50-inch flatscreen TVs, which, of course, are displaying whatever games happen to be on. Outdoor café seating is available on the front patio.
In addition to the games, there's live music on Fridays, team trivia on Wednesdays, a long list of drink specials throughout the week, and a full wine and specialty cocktail menu to accommodate all tastes, not just those of craft beer enthusiasts. I sampled a couple of these and they were quite tasty, especially The Saint — a mix of Absolut Berry Açai, St. Germain and sour, served on the rocks with fresh blueberries.
McAnderson's House of Brews may not have the same niche appeal of some of the area's craft-only beer bars, but it accomplishes the goal of truly offering something for everyone, whether you're in the mood for a cold lager to drink while you watch the game, a glass of wine or specialty cocktail to enjoy with your dinner, or a rotating selection of premium craft beers to sip while throwing darts, catching some live music, or just chatting with friends. I can definitely deal with that.