Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Brasserie Saint Somewhere settles into new home

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Early on in my good beer education, I became a big fan of the two local options that were available in bottles at my beer shop. The first was Dunedin Brewery, which I wish I could still find in bottles nearby. The other was Saint Somewhere.

Anyone who knows anything about the local beer scene knows Saint Somewhere, Tarpon Springs' scrappy farmhouse brewery that, despite being housed in the equivalent of two storage units in a nondescript business park, managed to produce enough brews — bottled entirely by hand using weekly volunteers — to distribute in more states than any other Florida brewery (including Yuengling), and even internationally.

How Saint Somewhere and its proprietor, Bob Sylvester, managed to not outgrow its old space for a solid decade is beyond me. Maybe it could have gone on forever in the old digs, but fortunately for us, Saint Somewhere has found a new, far more accessible home in downtown Tarpon Springs.

Brasserie Saint Somewhere — a slight but important name change — is in a restored 1912 two-story home off Tarpon Avenue. For years, nobody did beers like Sylvester, using wild yeast and unusual ingredients, ranging from jasmine tea to horse feed. Now, Saint Somewhere has a taproom that's unlike any other in the area.

Inspired by the traditional beer bars of Belgium, Brasserie Saint Somewhere has the very cool and somewhat unusual feature of offering guest rooms upstairs. While these are still in the process of being furnished, they will eventually host visiting brewers from around the world, as well as folks who simply want a nice place to get some rest after a serious day of drinking. Best of all, your stay includes beer, which will be available by tap upstairs.

The change of the name to include Brasserie is not arbitrary. The bartenders are dressed uniformly, pouring beers from European-style faucets. The front bar and chandeliers are reclaimed from the old Belleview Biltmore Hotel. And an authentic French art nouveau back bar is just about 100 years old. Brasserie Saint Somewhere convincingly plays the role of traditional Belgian countryside bar.

There's a lot of space in this old house. A raised porch wraps around the front, and there's a patio out back, adjacent to the detached brewhouse. Inside, there are a few separate rooms to hang out in, each with vintage photographs, paintings, stained glass and pieces of brewery memorabilia. The color scheme is marine blue and white — a nice nod to Tarpon Springs' heritage — punctuated with a rich burgundy. Fresh flowers add a little extra color.

The specialty at Brasserie Saint Somewhere is the lineup of house beers, which are invariably some variation on the saison style. The first three batches produced in the new brewhouse (Jasmine, Assoifeé and Saison Athene) are on tap now, but the number of house brews available will eventually rise to six rotating selections, joined by four rotating guest brews from France and Belgium.

I was interested to see how the new beer stacked up against the product from the old brewhouse. Without getting deep into the world of microbial fermentation, I'll just note that a big part of Sylvester's beers involve local microflora, which had been accumulating in his old brewhouse for more than a decade.

The current brews definitely have a bit of funk to them, but they're somewhat tamer at present than recent output from the old brewery. Sylvester hopes to bring a touch of the old place to the new one, so he made sure to spray "several gallons" of his Lectio Divina dark saison across the rafters of the new brewhouse. Note to non-brewers: You'll have to trust me, but this all makes perfect sense.

I've been a Saint Somewhere fan for a long time, so of course I was happy to see a proper brewery tasting room come into the picture. But even if you've never tried a drop of Saison Athene, or Cynthiana or Serge, I'd recommend taking a look at the new brasserie. It's a beautiful and unusual presence in the local beer scene, and after visiting you can decide for yourself whether I'm talking about the tasting room or the beer itself.

@saintbeat.com; @WordsWithJG.

 
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