Had enough beer yet? Whether or not you've been participating in Tampa Bay Beer Week, there's no doubt you've been hearing all about it. Good beer is simply everywhere. Even an inconspicuous strip mall in Brandon is home to a new beer bar, one that confidently steps up to the bar set by other area craft brew hotspots and raises it a wine glass or two.
I'm talking about the Stein & Vine, a restaurant and bar specializing in both craft beer and quality wine that opened in the Kings Row shopping center late last year. I met a friend there recently to have a few beers and play some darts, and while it turned out that he lived within walking distance of the place, he had never heard of it. I'd say it had something to do with the admittedly low-key setting, as well as the sign above the door that simply says, "PUB."
Although the Stein & Vine was news to him, it was anything but to the people inside, who filled every table and bar stool inside. Before heading to the concealed nook in the back — basically a small area to play steel-tipped darts, with a single high-top table — I took a look at the chalkboard above the bar to see what was good.
From the looks of it, a lot of things were good. It took less two seconds for my eyes to automatically focus on the name Duchesse de Bourgogne. On draft? And there were more great choices, from Victory Ranch R Double IPA to Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, neither of which I've seen at other Bay Area bars. Goose Island, Ballast Point, Bear Republic and Florida beers from Florida Brewing Company and Green Room, as well as hard-to-find options like Firestone Walker's Nectar IPA and Domaine DuPage from Illinois's Two Brother's Brewing — this place was looking solid.
Then there's the wine. While many places do beer or wine well as a primary effort, few cover both equally. First off, beer bars and wine bars tend to have a different atmosphere, and the expertise that goes into making each a success doesn't necessarily translate well to the other. But the name of this bar is the Stein & Vine, and they have the chops to back it up.
There are just under 20 wines available by the glass (compared to 27 beers on draft), and another 30 by the bottle, ranging from $5 a glass house wines all the way to high-end Cabs from Jordan and Far Niente in Anderson and Napa Valleys, respectively. The beer bottle list is just a bit more extensive (90-odd varieties in a large cooler topped by decorative beer steins), including some pretty serious stuff, like Boon's Oude Gueuze Mariage Parfait ($17.50) and Rodenbach Vintage 2010 ($30).
Neither wine nor beer enthusiast will feel out of place here. The Stein & Vine delivers in its promise to cater to distinct both crowds, with a laid-back, comfortable interior with creative accents, such as copper-colored tiles and brickwork behind the bar, wrought-iron spherical light fixtures in the walkway between the bar seating and adjacent tables, and a bar top covered in pennies. Whether you're into Belgian sour beers, IPAs, Pinot Grigio, or Syrah, you probably won't feel let down.
As even-handed as the Stein & Vine may be, the fact is that I'm primarily a beer drinker, and as such, I make it out to plenty of beer bars. I can honestly say that the Stein & Vine can compete with the absolute best of them. Maybe some serious wine folks can chime in and tell me how it stacks up in their eyes. Either way, I'm sure my Brandon friend is happy to find a new spot like this. I am too.