Saturday, February 24, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Arkane Aleworks in Largo is bringing the beer

Festival brewery is a term that I use to describe breweries in progress: reliably spotted working the local beer fest circuit, decked out with vinyl banners, cool jockey boxes with custom tap handles, clever beer names and concepts and professionally printed apparel boasting convincing logos.

No matter how good the beer, you can't get any outside of the festival, as these are essentially home brewers who aspire to eventually open a brick and mortar. When? "Soon."

I have absolutely no gripe with such brewers; I count several as friends. Festivals are a great way to build brand recognition and generate excitement in your eventual opening. The problem is that too many festival breweries never actually open, and the ones that do are often unable to re-create their small-batch quality in a big-time setup.

In July, Arkane Aleworks — a well-known festival brewery — announced, in regard to the "coming soonish" status of its official opening, that "today is soonish," making Arkane the second brewery in Largo, behind Barley Mow. I visited during soft opening week and revisited a few weeks later. I've been to more than a few brewery openings and can say that Arkane has pulled off a rare feat: a transition from small-scale festival brewing to a professional business, with beer that easily matches — and possibly outpaces — the output from its many festival appearances.

Partial credit for the smooth transition from festival brewery to actual brewery must be given to Greg Rapp of Seminole's Rapp Brewing. Arkane owners Joe Scheibelhut and Dan Graston both worked at Rapp prior to going into business on their own — Scheibelhut as head brewer, Graston as bartender.

While the duo are undoubtedly qualified brewers on their own, it would be tough to put in the hours at a facility as consistently good as Rapp —especially in a head brewer position — without getting some sort of education. At the very least, it would explain how a small-batch homebrew crew was able to open with a full lineup of great beer, brewed on a considerably larger scale (which, for reference, is very difficult to do).

So I say Arkane is pretty good, and if you give any weight to online reviews, it seems like a lot of people agree. What's so good? For one, it's roomy, with lots of seating. There's cafe seating out front, a fenced-in patio out back, lots of bar seating, high-tops and several picnic tables. Reclaimed wood and polished cement floors give the interior a stylish, if typical, look. There's local art on the walls and live music in the brewery area. Throw in some board games and you've got all the necessary trimmings of a comfortable, fun tasting room.

But ultimately, it has got to be about the beer. There's room for 28 beers on the tap wall, and a little over half are typically pouring — impressive for a new brewery.

There's Circle K Feet, which is a porter, and Skinny DIPA, which is a "session double IPA," clocking in at 5.8 percent. There's a watermelon gose called One in a Melon and Frickelsnitz IPA, which the menu helpfully informs us is "not the Snickelfritz," another of the brewery's IPAs. Then there's It's Gunna Be UUUGE, which is described as a "really full-bodied dark wheat beer." That's a missed opportunity, guys. It should have been an imperial blond ale.

The beers are great, all of them. But I'm especially into Arkane's Florida weisses, a revival of what could be our state's iconic style if it's able to re-emerge from the shadows of the current gose craze. These heavily fruited, tart wheat ales are unbeatable during the summer, and Arkane makes some really cool combinations. So far there has been cherry-lime, cucumber-hibiscus and cranberry-passionfruit — who knows what's next?

Don't get the impression that Arkane only brews German-style sour ales, though. The range is diverse, including a Scotch ale, a Kentucky common, a coffee stout loaded with beans from Tampa's Buddy Brew, a saison, a Belgian-style golden strong ale, a hoppy brown and so on. Remarkably, there's not a dud in the bunch.

Now that Arkane Aleworks has graduated from festival brewery status and is open for business, the promise has changed. Now it's "grand opening coming soonish." But honestly, don't bother — this place is ready to enjoy right now. — [email protected]; @WordsWithJG

Comments
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FEST On Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Explore mayo's upscale friend: aioli

Mayonnaise does not have to be pedestrian. Mayonnaise, like life, is what you make of it. The link below is devoted to America’s love-hate relationship with the white stuff in the jar. Yours truly provides a defense for using it as a cooking a...
Published: 02/21/18
In defense of mayonnaise

In defense of mayonnaise

It weighed heavy, spread across my soul like a creamy white burial shroud. I would never admit it, not in a million years. My husband wondered, what was on the chicken? He ate it willingly, then enthusiastically. "I can never tell you." I sat quie...
Published: 02/21/18
Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Hide the cauliflower in this Mushroom and Cauliflower Frittata recipe

Do I like cauliflower as much as the next guy? Well, no. Itís one of the cruciferous vegetables whose cooked aroma sends me running for the exit. But the oh-so-trendy riced variety, stirred into this frittata mix, works for me.Hereís why: Used raw, i...
Published: 02/20/18
Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

Drink of the week: the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Loire Valley

With the weather turning toward spring, so do our appetites ó from hearty comfort food to lighter, fresher flavors.That goes for wine as well, and one lively choice is the Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2016 from the Joel Delaunay winery in the Loire Val...
Published: 02/20/18
Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

Taste test: canned peeled tomatoes

On a recent cold night, my son asked for a bowl of tomato soup. I was preparing to run to the grocery store for a can or carton of soup to heat up when I realized I had 17 cans of whole tomatoes on the counter, ready for my tasting panel to sample. I...
Published: 02/20/18
Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

Review: Platt Street Borough is casual Tampa dining with high standards

TAMPAIt wasnít that long ago that Platt Street was a bit of a conundrum for restaurateurs: Not exactly downtown, without the dense auto traffic of Kennedy, and far enough off the South Howard main drag that it didnít entirely qualify as part of SoHo....
Published: 02/19/18
Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Bar review: Four Green Fields at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

At most Irish pubs, guests will encounter some combination of shamrock and leprechaun imagery, Guinness signs and possibly Dropkick Murphys playing on the jukebox. Thatís about what I expected a bit more than a decade ago when I first visited Tampaís...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Local-ish craft beer of the week: Two Tickets, Gravity Brewlab/Evil Twin Brewing

Call it local-ish. Miamiís Gravity Brewlabs is four hours south of the bay area by car, but it could be closer on any given day, seeing as how it has operated for years as a "gypsy" brewery, partnering with local brick-and-mortars to produce its line...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/22/18
The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

The Reading Roomís Lauren Macellaro and Columbiaís Richard Gonzmart are James Beard semifinalists

Itís almost a sick joke. On the morning after Valentineís Day, the second-busiest restaurant day of the year, chefs all over the country are hauling themselves out of bed early to find out: Did I make it onto this yearís James Beard Foundation list o...
Published: 02/15/18