I like to think that I'm pretty up to date when it comes to the local brewery scene, but sometimes I'm proved wrong.
For example, I visited Palm Harbor's de Bine Brewing a while back, and I referred to it in my column as that city's third brewery, along with Stilt House and Lagerhaus. A reader pointed out my mistake — in my mental inventory of Palm Harbor breweries, I missed an obvious one: Palm Harbor Brewery.
In my defense, Palm Harbor Brewery is a bit of an odd duck. It's the brewing arm of Two Lions Winery, which opened on Dunedin's Main Street in 2009, relocated to Palm Harbor, and began offering beer in mid 2015. The two businesses combined into a dual-named, single entity.
It's about as low profile as they come, located in a house that would be indistinguishable from an ordinary residence if it weren't for the large, shell-lined patio out front.
Owner Rose Post doesn't fit the description of your typical craft brewer, either. She's a former proprietor of a Chinese restaurant who got into the wine game with husband Kevin Zylstra several years ago, originally tinkering with fruit wines before moving on to grapes, and then beer.
Two Lions Winery & Palm Harbor Brewery feels a fair deal like a hobbyist's home on the inside, too, with various rooms repurposed to accommodate the business.
A small room adjacent to the living room is home to glass carboys containing various soon-to-be wines and beers. A dining room outside of the kitchen is outfitted with bookshelves stocked with Two Lions wine bottles and a dinner table where guests sample wines and beers. The kitchen? It's a bar, with 20 beers on tap — 17 in-house and three local guest taps when I visited — and a wine slushie machine churning nearby.
Post is remarkably prolific, with output on the brewery side alone representing an impressive range of styles. The fact that she also has eight or so wines available at any given time is really something.
I suppose if one is to gauge the quality of a winery's output, a sampling of well-traveled styles such as chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon would be the way to go. I couldn't resist going in the opposite direction and trying a blend of the two wine slushie flavors — red sangria and peach bellini — as well as the holiday red, which was a sweet, fruity wine that boasted bubblegum and maple notes amidst the aroma and flavor of traditional mulling spices. I'm afraid you'll have to try the more traditional offerings yourself if you'd like to know how they stack up.
I've got you covered on the beer, though. Over two shared flights, I tried everything from a double IPA to a raspberry wheat to a helles lager. I'm told that the Bodega porter is a top seller. It's a big, rich and chocolatey brew that hides its 9 percent alcohol by volume quite well. This, and all of the other beers I tried, were quite good and were brewed faithful to style.
Of the beers I tried, my top picks are both hop-centric: Hop Gone Wild and the Mosaic session IPA. The former is on par with big name West Coast examples of the style — big but dry; prominently bitter with a dialed-in combination of grapefruit, pine and resin notes. The session IPA is crisp and fruity, drinking like an IPA in all respects but its 5 percent alcohol by volume, and without the unbalanced, thin body that so many beers in this style suffer from.
Two Lions Winery & Palm Harbor Brewery is easy to miss, so I'm not beating myself up too badly for being late to the party. It's an under-the-radar operation, with Post quietly pumping out a wide variety of true-to-style brews and wines in a cozy home setting in downtown Palm Harbor. Friendly, quaint and very easy to overlook if you're not careful.