Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Cork N Brew Bistro: Wine, beer offer a sleek twist on the usual Clearwater Beach bar

Clearwater Beach is an interesting destination for drinking and dining. There are many hugely popular beach bars, like Palm Pavilion and Frenchy's, that bring out large crowds nightly to watch the sunset, drink fruity cocktails and listen to live bands.

Then there are places like Cork N Brew Bistro.

From the outside, you might think that Cork N Brew is actually located in SoHo, Hyde Park or any other trendy bay-area neighborhood that's more slacks and dresses than trunks and bikinis. From the sleek signage up top to the large, stretched out lounge out front, Cork N Brew — which celebrates its first anniversary next month — is clearly courting a different crowd from most of its neighbors.

It's a smart approach in an area thick with sunny beach bars. This spot is more relaxed and intimate — where you might take a date, where the ambient volume level is low and the vibe subdued.

The sidewalk lounge, decorated with long couches, café seating, and attractively lit shrubbery, comprises nearly half of the seating area at Cork N Brew. The interior has an open-air feel, with a cutaway between the bar and outdoor lounge allowing the cool beach breeze to flow freely throughout. There's a small dining area in the corner, where live musicians perform on the weekends; a long, winding bar stretching the length of the tiny interior; and plush booth seating along the opposite wall.

Everything is very tidy and smartly put together, giving Cork N Brew an upscale feel. A long tap wall is backed by cool, rectangular glass tiles in cool hues of white and blue, and the whole thing is surrounded by wine coolers, stocked with an impressive array of bottles from around the world.

Wine, which represents half of Cork N Brew's titular repertoire, is available by the glass or bottle, as would be expected; but there are a few twists that make it stand out from most typical wine bars. For one, there's a small cocktail list that offers creative concoctions made with a sake base (there are beertails, too), ranging from fruity (citrus and berries) to savory (a sake-based Bloody Mary garnished with cucumber).

For another, Cork N Brew has an extremely cool Napa Technology wine-tasting machine, which gives guests a chance to sample a number of different wines. Guests purchase a minimum of $20 in credit on a card that's used at the wine pouring station where they have a choice of eight wines, served in their choice of 1-, 3-, or 5-ounce pours. There's an additional — but extremely valuable — benefit: the wines are kept in an oxygen-free environment, which keeps open bottles tasting fresh.

Don't mistake Cork N Brew as exclusively a wine-lover's destination. There are 22 beers on tap and another dozen or so in the bottle, so the selection is far from overwhelming, but there's no lack of quality options, including some unusual options not seen in many other places, such as Victory's Hop Devil served on nitrogen, New Belgium's Accumulation seasonal white IPA, and Cold Storage's Betchy Brown ale. The electronic tap list includes Beer Advocate and Rate Beer scores for each beer; growlers, in both 32-ounce and 128-ounce sizes, are available in case you'd like your beer to go.

To round things out, Cork N Brew has a full food menu, from small, tapas-style plates and grilled flatbreads, to lava rock entrées, which feature a blazing hot rock on which guests can cook their meal. For after dinner, a well-stocked cigar humidor is on hand; Cork N Brew even offers the option to have your cigar dipped in cognac before you take it out to the patio lounge.

While Clearwater Beach's major draw will always be its sprawling, sandy beach bars, it's nice to have other options in the immediate vicinity when a change of pace is needed. And even better is how well Cork N Brew lives up to its name, offering a carefully curated selection that gives serious wine enthusiasts and beer lovers alike something to get excited about.

Comments
Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s original Tampa restaurant is closing, marking the end of an era

Lee Roy Selmon’s, the restaurant that paid homage to the community icon who rose to fame as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and grew to become a popular civic leader, will shutter the doors of its original location on Tampa’s Boy Scout Boulevard in June.Employ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

Brunch-based alcohol will be available at First Watch’s new Orlando location

ORLANDO — The popular breakfast and brunch chain First Watch will be opening a new restaurant in Orlando that will add cocktails, beer and wine to the menu. The new concept restaurant, set to open on Memorial Day at 1448 N Alafaya Trail, will be 1,00...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Transform your weeknight cooking with this kitchen tool

Once upon a time, way back in the annals of home cooking, there was an era before sheet-pan suppers.In that dark age, even well-equipped kitchens did not have so much as a single professional sheet pan, let alone the two or three deemed indispensable...
Published: 05/23/18
Up your homemade smoothie game with these tips

Up your homemade smoothie game with these tips

You could head to your neighborhood juice shop and order a $7 or $8 smoothie. Blending your own, however, is not only easier on your wallet, but you can customize to your heart’s content and make several batches at a time.Whether you’re making a nutr...
Published: 05/23/18
Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a baker’s best friend

Vanilla is complex, even smoky, and may be a baker’s best friend

By Kim OdeSomewhere along the line, vanilla became synonymous with bland or ordinary.Which is just plain wrong.Blame it on a world of Chubby Hubby ice cream and Candy Cane Oreos, where "more" sounds like "better," where fake flavors bolster profits.I...
Published: 05/23/18
I tried making restaurant-quality braised short ribs at home

I tried making restaurant-quality braised short ribs at home

One of my 2018 cooking resolutions was to cook at least 10 things this year that I never have before. Somewhere near the top of my list was short ribs. You can hardly eat at a restaurant now without seeing short rib in some form on the menu: braised,...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Lavender is almost as pretty to smell as it is to look at, but as far as taste goes, the results aren’t always as appealing. A little like cilantro, lavender can taste soapy to some people, making it a tricky plant to use properly. But, when used the...
Published: 05/22/18
Taste test: new (and very sugary) cereals

Taste test: new (and very sugary) cereals

My addiction to sugar began as a child. I loved sugary breakfast cereals as a morning meal or an evening snack, the sweeter the better. We used to joke in my house that I even added table sugar to Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. Thankfu...
Published: 05/21/18
Restaurant review: Baytenders Oyster Bar & Steamer is a low-key, friendly spot to gather

Restaurant review: Baytenders Oyster Bar & Steamer is a low-key, friendly spot to gather

ST. PETERSBURG Brian Storman has had a long and colorful career in the Tampa Bay area. In the 1980s he had the insanely popular Storman’s Palace in Feather Sound, which in 2008 became the grownup playground "ultralounge" called the Venue (25,0...
Published: 05/21/18