Saturday, December 16, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: Dunedin's Wine and Brew cozies up to House of Beer

If it didn't open at 7 p.m., you might think that Dunedin's Wine & Brew was a community coffee shop. It's small and cozy, decorated with the work of local artists, and it hosts a freestyle hip-hop night every week. Many of the bar orders are for tea and coffee, but the rest are mentioned right in the name of the business: Wine & Brew.

If you haven't hear of Wine & Brew, you can chalk it up to the bar's relatively low profile. Quietly opened in 2013, Wine & Brew has operated as a wine-centric chill-out spot — a counterpoint to its next-door neighbor and sister business, Dunedin House of Beer.

A few years ago, House of Beer was one of the three major beer destinations in Dunedin. Every beer fan who has spent time in Dunedin has walked what I call the "Beermuda Triangle" — from Dunedin Brewery to 7venth Sun to Dunedin House of Beer (order optional). So it only made sense when House of Beer started brewing its own brand of, well, house beer.

The next step in House of Beer's evolution was to open a bar next door, ditching the beer-only focus of the original and adding some wine into the mix. That's the deal at Wine & Brew.

Although Wine & Brew is separate from House of Beer, it's linked by a door connecting the two and a shared courtyard out back. Bouncing between the two businesses is a no-brainer, which is a plus if your party can't decide between House of Beer's extensive beer list or the rotating selection of wines next door at Wine & Brew.

Of course, there are beers at Wine & Brew too, but the selection is modest. Most of the HoB-brand beers are on tap in House of Beer proper, with only a tap or two devoted to the brewery's lineup at Wine & Brew. The big seller is HoB's Mango Hefeweizen, a fixture at Wine & Brew, along with local brews from Two Henrys, Coppertail, and Tampa Bay Brewing Co.

On its own, Wine & Brew is certainly a competent beer bar. But relative to House of Beer, it's easier to see the bar's strength as a wine bar. There are eight selections on draft, which means that every glass of these wines will remain as fresh as the first. Local wine? Yep — the Florida Winery's Vino Florida Sangria makes an appearance, both on draft and in the $6 wine slushies churning behind the bar.

For wine slushies, you can choose from the Haus White or Red Sangria. It's a bit cold for either right now, but I can see that changing soon enough. Just imagine wine slushies in the courtyard.

While I normally would skip the non-alcoholic side of the menu, I think it's worth mentioning here. Wine & Brew feels a bit like a late-night coffee shop, and it has some additional selections that fit the vibe. If you're not in the mood for wine or beer, why not order a French-press coffee? The tea selection covers plenty of ground — black, white, green, herbal — and includes a truly fantastic pearl jasmine.

Aside from the wines, brews, teas and coffees, Wine & Brew draws respectable crowds with its weekly events. The Dunedin Lyricist Society hosts a freestyle hip-hop open mic every Tuesday, while Wednesday is trivia night. Thursday is the night to visit if you love wine, as draft wines are BOGO, and there are free wine tastings every Friday.

Occasionally, Wine & Brew hosts special events, including live music and art shows like the upcoming Facing Deconstruction show on Saturday, which features the mixed-media art of Jay Titus, as well as realistic portraits by Carrie Smith.

It's smaller than its next-door counterpart, but the focus is wider, making Wine & Brew a good choice for groups who can't decide what to drink. And though it's physically attached to House of Beer, Wine & Brew is a fine bar in its own right, offering a tidy selection of wines and brews to choose from in a low-key, artsy space that feels right at home in the downtown Dunedin community.

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG.

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