I'm usually good at predicting trends. If an idea's got legs, I can usually tell, and it's often not long before it gains widespread acceptance. But there are a few concepts that I've been waiting to see gain traction, but never seem to catch on.
For instance, the beer cocktail. With the range of flavors and characteristics already on beer menus nowadays, this seems like a no-brainer. Carbonated soft drinks, exotic liqueurs, bitters, fresh juices, muddled fruits and herbs, and flavored syrups form the building blocks of even the most casual cocktail menu, so why not throw some beer in there?
Clearwater's Kingfish Grill is among a handful of area establishments flirting with the concept. Kingfish focuses on the kind of flavors one would expect to find in the Sunshine State. The cocktail list features a range of tropical frozen drinks, flavored mojitos, citrusy and refreshing signature drinks and, of course, the aforementioned beer cocktails, dubbed "beertails" on the menu.
Wedged between a Taco Bell and an Executive Inn on a not-particularly-attractive stretch of Ulmerton Road, Kingfish Grill is easy to miss, but inside is an attractive, well-designed bar and grill that gets pretty darn busy, perhaps because of its first-place showing in last year's Taste of Clearwater competition.
The interior is divided into a central, U-shaped bar, topped with smooth granite, backed with white, brown and black mosaic tiles, and lit overhead by small orange lamps; a raised dining deck to the left with low-key, soft lighting; and an additional private dining room toward the entrance. Next to the bar are a few additional high-tops, perfect for casual dining and cocktails.
There are some 25 beers on draft and an additional 20 in the bottle, and the selection ranges from Japanese light lagers to ciders to Belgian Quads. The draft list seems to rotate more frequently than the printed menu, so be sure to check the tap handles to avoid missing out on some unlisted gems, like Dunedin Apricot Wheat and St. Bernardus Abt 12.
And then there are the beertails. The Bee Sting is a surprisingly refreshing mix of stout (we opted for Young's Double Chocolate instead of Guinness), Absolut Mandarin and orange juice (yes, stout and orange juice). The Elderflower Citrus Fizz combines lager (we picked Kona Longboard) with Absolut Citron, St Germain and lemon juice. And the aptly-named, decadent Chocolate Razz Truffle is made from Young's Double Chocolate Stout, DeKuyper Razzmatazz Schnapps and Marie Brizard Chocolate Royal liqueur.
While all three were satisfying, the best was the Elderflower Citrus Fizz — the lager addition gave the otherwise standard cocktail an interesting nutty twist, adding depth and an extra-refreshing quality. It's a great example of how beer can be used in the modern cocktail palette.
There are nearly 50 wines available by the bottle, half of which are available by the glass, and a wide selection of high-end liquors, including a few ultra-premium options (such as Grand Marnier 100-Year). The specialty cocktails should also not be overlooked.
While the Kingfish Grill is primarily a restaurant, its bar is ahead of the curve. House cocktails are creative and cover a wide range, as do the beer, wine and liquor selections. Sure, I'm a sucker for the beer cocktails. Maybe in a year or two my trend prediction will be vindicated, but in the meantime, swing by Kingfish and try out a few for yourself. — firstname.lastname@example.org