Make us your home page

Bar review: Make it about the beer at International Beer Garten in Lutz

I was chatting beer with an old friend who now lives in the Land O'Lakes area, and he mentioned that Lutz and Land O'Lakes were somewhat devoid of good beer bars. The only place close to him is the International Beer Garten, a beer bar established in 2008. A bay area beer bar that has been open for more than eight years that I've never visited? Unthinkable!

It turns out he was right. Unless you want to hop over to Wesley Chapel, IBG is the beer bar for Lutz and Land O'Lakes. And it's a hit with area residents, as evidenced by its eight-year tenure.

It's not a bad option, either. There are 52 beers on draft, a voluminous bottle selection, four draft wines and a full liquor selection, including house cocktails. The location is great — right off the Suncoast Parkway at State Road 54 — and the space is large and attractive, decked out in brick and polished wood. There are two bars, plenty of lounge and dining space to stretch out in, and an outdoor patio overlooking the chic Northpointe Village mixed-use complex. Yet, it could be so much more.

The International part of the name is quite apt; taking a page from the World of Beer playbook, bottled beers are organized by nation or geographical region, and there are many imported options. But whatever emphasis on an authentic beer bar experience the International Beer Garten may have had in the past seems to have been traded in for mainstream appeal, perhaps to keep the wheels turning in an area not quite tuned into today's beer culture.

Take IBG's Facebook page, for example. The bar's emphasis on its attractive female bartenders is so heavy that it could easily be mistaken for a modeling page. Beer is mentioned only in passing, despite near-daily status updates. The cocktail list is populated by sugary martini-style drinks, and there's a shot menu with such treats as the "Blonde Headed Slut" and "Red Headed Slut." Two "slut" drinks?

The effect is obvious: people don't come in excited about the beer. On the night I visited, well more than half the guests were drinking domestic macro light lagers, wine or colorful cocktails. There's nothing wrong with any of this per se, but IBG has everything it needs to be a great beer bar, and the residents of Lutz and Land O'Lakes deserve one.

Simply enough: Put more emphasis on the beer. If you have 52 beers on draft and 200-plus bottles, then there's no reason that more than half of the bar isn't drinking them. There are some bottles in the cooler that I know for a fact are a couple of years old. They're very good beers, too. The bartenders should learn about these beers and encourage the customers to try something new. You can have the inventory of a serious beer bar, but unless you get your customers on board, you'll end up with a lot of old stock.

I'm not picking on IBG; in fact, I found it to be a very nice place, and I wouldn't even slightly hesitate to visit again next time I'm in the area. If it were just a generic suburban shopping center bar, I would view it differently. But IBG has the location, the facility and the following to be a fantastic option for beer fans that don't want to drive to Tampa to enjoy a large selection of great beers. The potential is high, and it wouldn't take much effort to realize it.

You know, this is actually an opportunity for Lutz and Land O'Lakes beer drinkers. If I lived in the area, I would make IBG my local spot, easily. The selection is very good, and I could drink a different beer there every day for months without ever getting bored. I would chat beer with the bartenders and other patrons. I would treat IBG like the beer bar it could easily be.

In the meantime, IBG remains a solid, full-service bar. It's a fun place to hang out in, and a nice option for Lutz and Land O'Lakes drinkers. I hope, however, that it gains more recognition for what it should be: a serious, international beer bar with a tremendous selection. After all, the beer is all there — the culture just needs to catch up with it.; @WordsWithJG.

International Beer Garten

16540 Pointe Village Drive, Lutz; (813)749-0884;

The vibe: A beer mega-bar featuring an extensive selection of imports and domestic craft beers.

Food: Appetizers, $2 to $11.99; entrees, $7.99 to $20.99.

Booze: Beer, wine, liquor. Beer, $6 to $10, with bottle pricing varying based on selection; wine, $6.99 to $8.25; liquor, $5 to $13.75.

Specialty: There are 52 beers on draft (28 rotate regularly) and another 220-plus in the bottle. Draft selection features many local options, while the bottles tend to be heavier on the import side, categorized by country or geographical region. Take a good look at the bottle selection, as there are some fairly uncommon options.

Hours: 3 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday; 3 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday; 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Bar review: Make it about the beer at International Beer Garten in Lutz 04/20/16 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2016 2:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa City Council votes to accept Cuban ambassador’s travel invitation


    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25


    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24


    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  5. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17