Friday, January 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Belgian-style beer brings Brussels' bubbles to Tampa Bay bars

I almost gave up. It was hot. We were lost. The map didn't match Brussels' streets. My husband and I could not find Cantillon brewery.

Finally we stumbled upon this famous, 113-year-old Belgian brewery, known for its sour gueuze and cherry-flavored kriek lambic. It was one of the best beer experiences of my life. The next day De Halve Maan in Bruges poured a delicious Belgian blond ale that was packed with fruity esters yet lighter than its cousins, the dubbles and tripels.

Back in Tampa, I began to go through Belgian beer withdrawal. Sorry, but Blue Moon is not an exceptional representation of Belgian beer, a group of about 18 styles that feature unique Belgian yeast, sometimes use open fermentation and often play with fruit and intense carbonation.

I wanted something with a dry sourness like I tasted at Cantillon, something honey-colored and delicately fruity like I got at De Halve Maan.

My mission started at Mr. Dunderbak's, a German restaurant in New Tampa long known to have one of the best beer lists in the bay area. On a recent Friday night, their draft menu contained an entire section devoted to Belgian beers.

I ordered the one I had not heard of — the De Proef Flemish Primitive Wild Ale. It was slightly sweet, grassy and a little funky from the wild yeast, but, you know, in a good way.

Next, I headed to one of my favorite neighborhood spots: Tampa's Independent Bar and Cafe, the source of happy memories. During this year's Tampa Bay Beer Week, the Indie hosted "Cheers to Belgian Beers," which featured lots of unusual Belgian beer.

Sure enough, on this visit, the Independent's black chalkboard promised the De Ranke XX Bitter, a Belgian IPA. Most traditional Belgians are not hop-forward, though brewers recently have been taking notice of the U.S. West Coast's experimentation with bitter beers. This one maintained its Belgian character with fruity esters and distinct tartness.

Later, I hit the road for the always entertaining Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill in Palm Harbor, owned by Austrian brewer Franz Rothschadl. On this visit, I ordered the Wild Berry Imperial Lambic and Kathatina's Apfel Blond, both brewed in-house.

The sweet-yet-tart lambic reminded of the readily available Lindemans Framboise. But I had never tasted anything like the Apfel Blond, an apple-flavored Belgian. The hints of apple in this straw-colored ale was so subtle. It was very bubbly and the sour notes clung to the tip of my tongue. The beer left behind its foamy white as I emptied the glass, leaving a pattern called Belgian lace.

Finally, I headed to the mecca of the Floridian-Belgian beer experience: Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs. Years ago, longtime home brewer Bob Sylvester decided to focus solely on farmhouse ales, mostly for the challenge and variability of using wild yeast.

Sylvester doesn't completely seal his fermenting beer, allowing wild yeasts that make each batch slightly different. His warehouse is not a bar, but it's open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays for tours and tastings.

On this particular Friday, he poured three beers: a dark farmhouse ale, one brewed with elder flower and my favorite, the Caitlin, a bubbly farmhouse ale brewed with dried orange slices and late-hopped with Citra.

He also pulled out a bottle of last year's Patte de Singe, a farmhouse ale he made for Zwanze Day, a special release event for a Cantillon beer in the United States.

The Patte de Singe was incredibly effervescent and dry, like champagne. It was nothing like what I had tasted in Belgium, perhaps because my quest had taken me further in Florida. And surrounded by beer devotees in this off-the-main-drag warehouse, it felt like a celebration.

— What's your favorite Belgian-style beer? Tell us at [email protected], or tweet us at @tbtnewspaper with the hashtag #tampabaydrinks.

     
Comments
Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

I donít consider myself "old" ó though I have gotten into a bad habit of informing door people insistent on checking my ID that Iím halfway to 70. But Iím frequently made aware of how far removed my lifestyle is from that of my 20s.So when I walked i...
Published: 01/18/18
Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

The past six months have been kind to Dunedinís 7venth Sun Brewery. In August, the breweryís long-awaited Tampa expansion finally happened, with its much larger Seminole Heights facility and tasting room opening in a town eager to try its range of ul...
Published: 01/18/18
Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Shake Shack, Momofuku and more: Please come to Tampa Bay

Fabio is coming! Not the Fabio on your romance novel, with the billowing hair and large quantities of artificial butter. This Fabio, in all likelihood, uses real butter. And olive oil. Fabio Viviani, the charming Top Chef alum known for appearances...
Published: 01/17/18
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Published: 01/17/18
Shake Shack inches closer to Tampa Bay with new Florida restaurant

Shake Shack inches closer to Tampa Bay with new Florida restaurant

Beloved burger restaurant Shake Shack, which once inspired hungry diners to wait in hours-long lines at New York's Madison Square Park before expanding with dozens of locations across the U.S., is inching closer to Tampa Bay. A lease agreement †with...
Published: 01/17/18
Healthful eating is just a one-pan fish dish away

Healthful eating is just a one-pan fish dish away

By Ellie KriegerI recoil at the repentant food chatter that crops up this time of year, dominated by words such as "cleanse" and "detox," which, from what I can tell, are just modern code for "extreme diet." But part of cultivating a healthy, balanc...
Published: 01/17/18
We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

I sat at my desk eating chunked pineapple straight out of the can, reading about how much fruit and vegetables we should all be eating every day: 1 1/2 to two cups of fruit, 2 1/2 to three cups of vegetables, at a minimum, per the United States Depar...
Published: 01/17/18
Taste test: pot stickers

Taste test: pot stickers

Whenever I order meals at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant I always look for pot stickers on the menu. The tasty Asian dumplings are filled with pork or chicken and veggies and cooked with a perfect balance of steaming and frying. The reason I order ...
Published: 01/16/18
From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

From the food editor: Recipe for warm, cozy Pita Ribollita soup

When I first made this soup, Florida was in the grips of a cold weather snap, the likes of which rarely happens in this part of the state. Weíre talking a whole week of lows in the 30s. The 30s! It was everything I ever wanted and more ó the rare win...
Published: 01/16/18
Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and thatís good

Restaurant review: Byblos Cafe has busted out of its mold with a broader Mediterranean menu, and thatís good

TAMPASeldom have I paid such close attention to a restaurant closure, remodeling and reopening. Byblos Cafe began a major renovation last year, keeping the restaurant open as long as possible during the summer with some nifty temporary walls to shiel...
Published: 01/16/18