From the ashes of the Proud Pony Lounge — a well-known and legendarily smoky Riverview dive bar — comes Bottle House Bar, a fully remodeled, refocused and only slightly less smoky dive bar that's quickly approaching its two-year anniversary.
Actually, I'm hesitant to call Bottle House Bar a dive. It offers standard dive amenities — pool tables, darts, cheap beer, live cover bands — but it's much cleaner, friendlier, livelier and outfitted with better gear than the typical dive. And it has a better beer selection.
Regarding beer, the gimmick is two-fold. First, there are more than 65 beers available, and all come in bottles — no drafts. Second, the beer is served ice-cold, from coolers that have a digital reading of the temperature inside, which usually clocks in under 30 degrees.
I can already see the pained expressions of serious beer nerds upon being served a bottle of Chimay that just came out of 28-degree cooler. It's true: not all beer should be served so cold, and most beer should be served "warmer" by a pretty wide margin. And then, beers are poured into frosted pint glasses.
Honestly, it's hard for me to be put off by something as simple as the recently passé push for cold beer. If a bar bills itself as the coldest beer in town and makes a concerted effort to back up that claim, then I find it endearing rather than misguided.
The bottle list has some quality options. There aren't many deep cuts, but when was the last time you saw Tank 7, Hop Gun, Resin, Liquid Bliss or Duvel on the menu at your local shopping plaza watering hole? The Venn diagram of neighborhood live-music bars and bars featuring a few dozen craft and import bottles shows a small sliver at the center, and that's where Bottle House Bar resides.
It's not a bad place to be, really. Especially when considering the bare-bones dive bar nature of its predecessor, Bottle House Bar has added — along with major renovations like new floors, a new ceiling and a new bar itself — two major components to the business that make it a proper go-to for nearby Riverview and Brandon residents.
The second of these components is live music. In the daytime, the stage at Bottle House doesn't look like much. It's small, plain and, when not in use, it's mostly covered by a projection screen showing whatever game is currently on. However, the sound and lighting at Bottle House are pro-quality, which has built its reputation as a popular local music venue.
Bands on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings are big draws, but Sundays are also popular at Bottle House. There's a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar that features an impressively robust list of vodkas and accoutrements (although I'd like to see more base options for mixers instead of just Zing Zang, for those of us that prefer an anchovy-free drink), and NFL games are shown on the big screen with audio through that high-quality sound system.
Three house wines are available by the glass, along with 18 available by the bottle. There are three drink specials for each day of the week (check the menu for details), as well as some week-round specials, like $3 SoCo and Lime shots and a $5 beer-and-Jäger combo. Then there's my favorite: whiskey-soaked cherry bombs. They're not as strong as the grain-alcohol versions, but they're maraschino cherries that are absolutely saturated with booze, and if you don't like that then I can't help you.
The short version of all this is simple. Bottle House Bar's owners took an aging dive in a popular location and improved just about everything. It's not a world-class beer bar, and it's not a venue for big-ticket touring musicians, but it is a damn solid neighborhood bar with lots of good drink options and a live music operation several cuts above your standard bar fare.