Monday, November 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Pour yourself some of Oak & Stone’s impressive beer selection

Beer and pizza: It writes itself, right?

Sure, but the current generation of pizza-and-beer establishments are aiming higher than yesterday’s counterparts, making the setup a little more elaborate and, ideally, a lot more interesting.

Oak & Stone is the latest local installation of this sort, bringing a punched-up menu — shout out to the Beyond Burger fans — and a massively upgraded drink program to the table. Gone are nostalgic red cups; in their place, beer tulips and cocktail glasses.

With an interior of about 6,000 square feet (that doesn’t include the spacious outdoor seating area), Oak & Stone is going for the giant barn look, with two-story ceilings, liberal use of unfinished wood, Edison bulbs attached to large wooden fixtures and an abundance of oak barrels for decoration. While the size of the interior is substantial, the division of seating areas throughout the restaurant gives the impression of a smaller space.

The primary room divider is a long tap wall that serves as a pour-your-own beer station. You may have heard something about the beer selection at Oak & Stone. It’s very good by beer bar standards, and absolutely outstanding for a place that’s ostensibly a restaurant first. There are a staggering 58 beers on tap, including a hefty number of Florida brews joined by some interesting out-of-town options.

After giving your ID to a server, you’ll be presented with a wristband that you can hold up to touchscreens accompanying each tap and start pouring. Pick your glassware, pick your beer, pick your volume — beers are priced by the ounce, and the wristband keeps track of your tab all the way up to 40 ounces, at which point you’ll have to soberly convince the server to reload it for you.

The major benefit here is that you get to drink as little or as much as you want of any particular beer, and you can try several without being restricted to the flight format. I treat it like I would a bottle share: Go for small pours of various beers, and circle back around for bigger pours of the ones that really stand out to me.

It’s a great way to try a bunch of stuff without punishing your wallet or liver too harshly.

Pour-your-own prices tend to run high, but the per-ounce pricing at
Oak & Stone adds up to something resembling a normal beer price in most cases. There are some quirks, like a local brown ale priced at about double what you’ll find at other bars, but it goes the other way, too: Some beers that would normally cost $8 for a snifter end up being that price for a pint. Look closely and you may find some surprising deals.

One major downside is the congestion around the beer wall. It’s already a little tight on the path from the entrance to the small bar in the back, but when you have a dozen people mulling around sampling splashes of beer, it can get crowded.

The other major part of the bar program is Oak & Stone’s Liquid Library, a collection of 12 house cocktails printed on the menu with fun, graphic logos. The drinks aren’t Earth-shattering, but there are a few thoughtful touches that make them feel special.

Examples: A dash of cracked pepper atop a Hendrick’s Collins (Last Word); orange marmalade with Bulleit Rye and orange curaçao (Jam You); mango puree in an Appleton Estate dark rum punch (Livin’ la Vida Oak); and fresh pineapple in a Ketel One Moscow Mule (Hospitality Mule).

We’ve talked about pizza and beer, but how about pizza and bourbon? Oak & Stone stocks a surprising selection of whiskeys, primarily of the bourbon and American whiskey variety. There are roughly two dozen to choose from, which is a lot, but good news: They are available as flights. You can pick four for $25. Sorry, no self-pours.

Even if pizza (and more) weren’t in the mix, Oak & Stone would be a heck of a new watering hole for downtown St. Pete.

Throw in an eclectic menu with something for everyone, and you’ve got a real one-stop shop.

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

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