By now, Tampa Bay is well-established as a craft beer hotbed. And it's got a respectable cocktail scene, too. So why not combine the two?
Yeah, yeah, beer and liquor snobs may scoff (or gag) at the concept of a beer cocktail. Irish Car Bombs, Boilermakers, Black and Tans and Micheladas aren't exactly Ph.D-level mixology. But when they're done right, beer cocktails can be fresh, filling and flavorful twists on tastes you already know and love.
The Lodge in Tampa is a perfect place to start. This is the rare SoHo hotsopt that doesn't take itself too seriously (the mini corn dogs are proof of that), and some of their beer cocktails are so head-slappingly simple they're almost brilliant. There's the Loaded Corona (Corona with a shot of tequila or Bacardi Limon) and the "Your Grand Ma Loves You," which is Shock Top with a shot of Grand Marnier. But the craziest drink on the menu might be "The Graveyard," an unholy mix of Yuengling, Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Shock Top. Because why not?
At Clearwater's King Fish Grill and Tap House, Chef Robert Uzzillia (formerly of the Venue) has designed a snappy-casual menu of steaks, seafood and pasta, but it's the giant beer and wine list that will catch the eye of drinkers. The hefty cocktail menu includes several orange-tinged "beertails," such as the Bee Sting, a mix of stout (we had Blue Moon, but feel free to substitute your own pick), Absolut Mandarin, orange juice and orange zest. Or try the Elderflower Citrus Fizz, made with lager, Absolut Citron, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice. Both resemble a spiked, snappy Sunkist.
Tampa's frat-tastic Brick House Tavern and Tap serves 11 "beers with a kick." Some are just two beers mixed together, like the Dirty Blonde (Stella Artois and Guinness) and Bangin' Brunette (Sam Adams and Guinness). Others have liquor, like the Fiery Apple Cider, a mix of Angry Orchard cider and Fireball whiskey. If you've tasted apple pie moonshine, this is a pretty fair approximation, and it'd taste just as good in November as it does in August.
Like the Brick House, the Mellow Mushroom is a national chain, but that doesn't diminish its rep as a beer drinker's haven. In addition to a sprawling bottle menu and decent tap selection, you can get a handful of "beer blends," like the Black N Blue (Sea Dog Blueberry on the bottom, Guinness on top); and some whimsical beer cocktails. Do you, for example, have the guts to order a My Frozen Berries, composed of Framboise raspberry lambic, raspberry vodka, ice cream and raspberry puree? Or a Disco Pear, which is a Woodchuck Pear Cider with a shot of Goldschlager? It's silly, but, hey, just about anything goes well with Mellow Mushroom pizza.
At the Sake Bomb in downtown St. Pete, they offer, well, sake bombs — beer with a shot of the Japanese rice wine dropped in. Maybe not the classiest option for a beertail, but it's definitely the most fun. And fun is what this artsy hipster hangout is all about — see their upcoming second annual robot-themed art show and "epic robot dance battle" on Sept. 27.
St. Petersburg's Three Birds Tavern serves nine layered beer blends, all of which employ at least one European beer or cider — Guinness, Bass, Boddingtons, Magners, Smithwick's, etc. Try the hefty and hearty Stella In The Dark — Guinness on top, Stella Artois down below — with something from their late-night kitchen menu, like their Poutine Fries with Guinness Gravy. Or just go for a straight-up beer and live music on their eminently inviting porch. Every little thing's gonna be all right …
Contributing: Michelle Stark, Katie Manfred