A regular Monday night at Seminole Heights' hip Mermaid Tavern, the lights low and spirits high. But each tabletop sported a flyer depicting a couple in vintage sailor suits, arms entwined in a toast over creamy-headed ales. It was the tavern's Tampa Bay Beer Week schedule, each evening showcasing the brewing arts of one of the world's greats.
In a row of specialty taps, Monday's showstoppers were a series of offerings from importer B. United International. While eclectic, the company's portfolio — across beer, cider, mead and sake — shares characteristics: traditional brewing processes and ingredients, a resistance to getting too large or commercial and an unflinching embrace of the quirky.
The evening's offerings proved this, from the discontinued Rubus Lamponi wild sour ale to Professor Fritz Briem's 13th century grutbier, both served in Chimay chalices. The former brought a light-bodied pinkish-amber beer that balanced tart and sweet with a wallop of sour raspberries (the raspberries sourced from the Alps in northern part of Italy). And the latter, less of a crowd pleaser, offered a reconstruction of what ancient Scotsmen might have quaffed, a cloudy golden lemon color with a hint of head giving way to champagne and apple juice on the palate with gingery/floral notes. Not an everyday kind of beer, but oddball and thought-provoking — and that seems to suit the crowd at this early-week TBBW event.