Friday, August 17, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Two Frogs Brewing jumps into Tarpon Springs

Slowly but surely, Tarpon Springs is becoming a bonafide craft-beer town, with taprooms open both downtown and at the sponge docks, as well as three unique breweries to call its own.

Saint Somewhere Brewery, built into a retrofitted early 20th century home, is a destination for saison and wild-ale lovers, while Silverking Brewing Company adds historic flavor with its nautical-themed taproom located in the city’s old jailhouse. The newest addition, Two Frogs Brewing Company, started pouring its own about a year ago in a tiny tasting room in the heart of downtown.

The name of the brewery refers to its proprietors, father and son Michael and Chad Croake. Chad developed his chops as a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s Brewing Arts Program, which has produced talent for a number of local breweries, including Seminole’s Rapp Brewing and Lakeland’s Brew Hub.

I’m a late to the party, but it’s by design. Two Frogs underwent a gradual opening, first featuring guest taps, then phasing in a handful of its own brews. A year later, and there’s an eight- or nine-beer tap list on the chalkboard behind a wooden bar, including some accomplished brews. The locals have noticed, and Two Frogs has enjoyed status as somewhat of a neighborhood secret.

I’ve driven through northern Nevada a few times, and I always made it a point to stop into whatever little roadside breweries I came across along the way. Two Frogs reminds me of those places: a quiet, low-key saloon with honest brews and a sprinkle of Western flavor, complete with antique photographs, vintage beer ads, various animal skulls and a portrait of John Wayne. A century ago, the building was even a brothel.

There are a few TVs above the bar, a bookshelf against the opposite wall stocked with bags of chips and some table seating near the entrance, looking out onto Tarpon Avenue through picture windows. During the day, the entire place is sunlit, completing the laid-back, unhurried vibe.

It’s all perfectly quaint, but the real reason Two Frogs has become a local favorite is because of the younger Croake’s beers, which strike an excellent balance between traditional crowd-pleasers and slightly more adventurous stuff for the enthusiasts.

On the pale ale side, you have Croake’s Select, the house IPA. Its big brother, Frog Jockey DIPA, comes with the occasional treatment, like a habanero version that was on tap when I visited. The best of the bunch, however, was the Tandem Pale Ale, a bright, satisfyingly crisp brew that’s hard to top if we’re talking Tarpon Springs day drinking.

Cardinal Amber makes a compelling case for a style that’s often left out of the conversation, while Green Mountain Maple Porter proudly represents the darker end of the spectrum as a rich and roasty dark-brown ale tempered by a hint of maple syrup.

The MVP, however, is undoubtedly Admiral Nelson Barleywine, a flawlessly-executed strong ale — 13 percent alcohol by volume, though it drinks as smoothly as a beer half as strong — bursting with notes of vanilla, caramel, fig and, in the case of the version that I tried, bourbon from the Knob Creek barrels it was aged in. Whichever way you can get it, try this beer.

I’m excited to revisit Two Frogs when some of Croake’s earlier hits make a reappearance, like Snowmass, his popular coconut-chocolate brown ale, brewed with cocoa from Pinellas Chocolate Company, or Mandarin Dreams, a wheat ale brewed with mandarin oranges and vanilla. I have no doubt they’ll be excellent.

Readers of this column know that Tarpon Springs is one of my favorite spots for an afternoon trip. With Two Frogs in the mix, it’s looking more and more like I need to get a room for the night and make a day of it. Even though the town has "only" three breweries, the depth and variety of its output has been increased nicely by the Croake family business, making it a destination for beer lovers, especially ones who can use an occasional break from the hustle and bustle down south.

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

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