Everyone loves bar games, but let's face it: There's not a lot a variety out there.
That is, until you look for it.
I cruised around the bay area in search of the best — and most unusual — booze and recreation combos in town and found quite a few sports that won't get in the way of your drinking.
Darts might be the quintessential bar game, and electronic boards with plastic darts can be found at nearly any bar. But half the fun is throwing around actual sharp objects while you enjoy a cold one, and Down the Hatch in Pinellas Park is the place to do it. With eight steel-tipped dartboards and six electronic consoles, Down the Hatch is a dart-throwing paradise. Inside, the smoke is thick, and the bar couldn't possibly be mistaken for anything but the diviest of dives, but the staff is friendly and the vibe is positive. The beer is cold and served in Mason jar mugs, and a full selection of liquors, including several premium tequilas and moonshines is available. The dart room often fills up with league practice and tournaments, some of which carry prizes as high as $500, and a pro shop is on site. Best of all: darts are always free when there's not an event going on.
A short trek up the road is Drifters Sports Pub, a no-frills place offering domestic beer served ice cold, as well as a few budget-friendly craft options and house wines. Pool, darts and the beloved Megatouch machine are all here, but how many bars do you know with table tennis? That's right, a paddle in one hand and a beer in another — that's how you do it at Drifters. There's a tabletop shuffleboard court, too, so you can work on your Knock Off or Horse Collar skills while you're at it.
Don't worry — the official rules are posted.
Further north at Palm Harbor House of Beer, there are many, many beers to try — 50 drafts and nearly double that in bottles — as well as several unique games. Among the more popular are cornhole, as well as two oversized versions of Connect Four and Jenga. My favorite, however, is the jumbo-sized Shut the Box, a preposterously addictive dice game popular in the U.K. that has a history dating back several hundred years. Get a flight of top-notch beer from around the world and see which one improves your dice-rolling skills the most.
In Dunedin, I stopped by Eddie's Bar & Grill. Eddie's is a huge place reminiscent of a beach bar, and it has its own game room separating the two bars. In here are several arcade games, claw machines, trivia and electronic card games that you can play right at the bar, Foosball, and — to my surprise — Skee Ball and a Hoop Fever basketball console. You don't win any tickets on these, but you can always play your friends for a round: There are 50 beers on draft, including Apricot Wheat Ale from down the street at Dunedin Brewery, as well as a full liquor bar.
Finally, a sport that frequently involves drinking but, alas, almost never takes place inside a bar. At the Golf Club in Tampa, you can play 18 holes on electronically rendered courses modeled after real ones from around the world. It all takes place inside private rooms equipped with large projection screens and sensors that analyze your game. Real golf balls, real clubs, but all inside of an air conditioned cocktail lounge with food, two dozen beers on draft, and a full liquor bar. Now that's some bar game.
— What's your favorite bar game, and where do you play it? Tell us at [email protected], or tweet at @tbtnewspaper with the hashtag #tampabaydrinks.