Make us your home page

Bar review: Check out Craft Life Brewing nano brewery in Land O'Lakes

Add Land O'Lakes to the list of Tampa Bay area towns with at least one brewery. For a while, it was looking like the upcoming In the Loop Brewing would be first on the scene, but Craft Life Brewing opened quietly in July, brewing 1-barrel nano batches in its modest Land O'Lakes Boulevard brewery and tasting room.

It has been a couple of months, but I haven't picked up on much of a buzz surrounding Craft Life. Part of that undoubtedly has to do with its location — a Seminole Heights opening, for example, would be a hot topic in the local beer groups — but it also seems like Craft Life is intentionally trying to not draw too much attention to itself.

Sure enough, I almost drove right past the place. It's an anonymous, windowless, gray building — the kind of roadside dive that you'd happily pass on any given day — with a small sign displaying the brewery's logo: a black line drawing of a sun rising, with Craft Life Brewing in handwriting-style text. A small banner on the side encourages visitors to "drink local," and features other local brewery logos in equal prominence to the Craft Life logo. I prepared myself for the worst.

I had an idea what I'd find inside. I've been to dozens of these places. They're invariably smoke-filled, dark and borderline depressing. Did I mention the no windows thing? Well, I'll be damned if the Craft Life folks didn't take one of these crusty old dive bar buildings and transform it into an entirely welcoming tasting room.

No smoke, no damp and stained carpeting, no sticky high-tops or ratty old pool table felts — just a low-key beer bar, with 20 beers on tap and a handful of house wines. It's roomy, clean and simple: a neighborhood bar feel without the less pleasant aspects of the average neighborhood bar.

On to the beer. The chalkboards above the bar are broken into four categories — light, medium, dark and hoppy — with Apple Pie cider from Cigar City Cider & Mead off in the corner by itself. I had a fun time decoding the chalkboard at first, as all brewery names (all local, by the way) are represented by initials, rather than by their full names.

STB, SHB, CTB, CLB, CCB (not to be confused with CBC) — it's like a stock ticker that I actually care about. And then there's CLB, which is, of course, Craft Life Brewing. When I visited, eight of the 20 on tap were house brews, covering a broad range: APA, IPA, honey blond, amber, nut brown, porter, pumpkin ale, milk stout.

Craft Life's owner and brewer, Tim Foley, who was bartending on his birthday, was clearly excited about the new digs, offering to give me a brief tour of the brewhouse, which is a nifty little 1-barrel (31-gallon) system — enough to brew two kegs per batch.

He explained that with such limited output, the goal is to keep a pretty low profile and have a customer base of friendly regulars who are in the know. That's a solid strategy for a nano brewery like this, which gets its edge not from getting lots of product out to all the local beer bars, but by perfecting brews in house, small batch by small batch.

To that end, the plan seems to be working. I did a flight of the APA, IPA, amber and nut brown, followed by a half-pour — kudos for offering half-pours — of the porter. For a brewery that is ostensibly still in a soft-opening phase, these beers are production-level quality, brewed to style and clearly not the output of an amateur operation.

For all the honest quality and simplicity of the beers, there are quite a few things in the works at Craft Life. There's a fenced-in outdoor courtyard with corn hole and oversized Jenga. Food trucks make regular appearances. Live music is already steadily featured on the calendar, and a weekly trivia night has just been added. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it's the complete neighborhood nano brewery experience, in a town where the next nearest brewery is 10 miles away.

If Craft Life's early batches are any indication, we can expect good things to come from Land O'Lakes' first brewery. Brewing on such a small system allows a brewer to fine-tune their product on a regular basis, which in theory leads to a well-honed roster of house beers. In practice, that's exactly what you'll find at Craft Life Brewing.



Craft Life Brewing

2624 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes; (813) 575-8440;

The vibe: A converted roadside dive, now a locals-friendly nano brewery and beer garden.

Booze: Beer and wine. Beer, $5 to $6.50; wine, $6. Flights of four sample beer pours are $8, and half pours are $3 to $3.75.

Specialty: Brewing in small batches makes it easier to refine and perfect recipes. The CLB beers that struck me as being the most dialed-in are the Gulf Coast APA and the Island Cove Red. Both are traditional, straightforward beers brewed to style, with remarkably balanced flavor profiles and clean finishes for a new brewery.

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday;

4 to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

Bar review: Check out Craft Life Brewing nano brewery in Land O'Lakes 10/06/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2016 10:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 24


    Zac Brown Band: The country, folk and Southern rockers embark on the "Welcome Home" tour in support of the album. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $27.50-$77.50. (813) 740-2446.

    Handout photo of the Zac Brown Band, performing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on 9/24/17. Credit: Shore Fire Media
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23


    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others


    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  4. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]