I would have been hard-pressed a few months ago to tell you anything about the beer scene in Odessa. Part of that is because I live pretty far from there, and the other part is, well, what beer scene in Odessa?
That last quip may have worked a year ago, but with new breweries like Big Storm and Wild Rover on the map, Odessa is unquestionably coming up in a big way. It's appropriate, then, that Odessa's newest beer bar, the Citrus Park House of Beer, holds its grand opening on Friday, right at the tail end of Tampa Bay Beer Week.
Florida has a lot of beer-bar chains, so allow me to clarify the lineage. Citrus Park House of Beer is the first franchise location of the House of Beer chain that started in Dunedin and spawned locations in Palm Harbor and Gainesville. (An aside: The Dunedin location is part of what I like to call the Dunedin Beer Triangle — two breweries, Dunedin and 7venth Sun, and a taproom that are all within a short walk of each other.)
Citrus Park House of Beer follows the HoB formula insofar as there isn't much of a formula at all, just a lot of good, fresh beer. The interior is modest — a relatively small but open space, with brick and terra cotta-colored walls, and wooden tables and benches. The place isn't just new; it looks and smells new.
There are 40 beers on draft, including five nitro taps for stouts, bitters and other Irish- and British-style pub drafts. The range is as diverse as one could hope for, including world-class imports like St. Bernardus Abt12, Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge and Radeberger; limited-release domestics like Green Flash Hop Odyssey: Double Columbus and Full Sail LTD #4; and lots of locals from Cigar City, Florida Avenue, 3 Daughters, Saint Somewhere (Caroline, a coffee saison, if you can believe that!), and, of course, Big Storm.
Beers are also available in small, 4-ounce tasters (priced from $1.50-$3 each), which gives you the option to make flights of any quantity you'd like, or simply the ability to drink a tiny beer, if that's your thing. Citrus Park HoB also offers 32-ounce and 128-ounce growlers, and presumably will fill 64-ounce growlers as well, once Florida lawmakers inevitably come to their senses. A modest bottle list is also available for on-site or package sales. My pick: The Bruery's Oude Tart, a Flanders-style red ale aged in wine barrels. It's pricy, but it's so good.
Speaking of wine, that's one of the unique features at Citrus Park HoB: Six wines are served on draft. Citrus Park HoB is one of only two local bars that I'm aware of (the other being the Flying Pig Taphouse in St. Pete) that does this. The wine keg system — which was approved in Florida last year — keeps wine fresh long after uncorking, with no oxidation whatsoever.
The final component of this House of Beer is the kitchen, a feature unique to this location. Chef Jeremy Denny is both a chef and a homebrewer, so it's no surprise that his menu experiments with beer-infused ingredients, including beer-boiled peanuts (the version I tried used Green Flash Double Stout) and Innis & Gunn-braised sauerkraut, which is used in the Reuben flatbread.
For Friday's grand opening, Citrus Park House of Beer will feature Rapp Brewing beers on tap, live music and giveaways throughout the day. And an expanded menu and beer classes are in the works for the weeks to follow. Citrus Park HoB will be a great place to stop by for Beer Week if you happen to be in the area, and what better time than that to welcome the latest addition to Odessa's emerging beer scene?