Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Tap Room at the Hollander: St. Pete's secret is getting out

I decided to try something different today. Instead of visiting this week's bar, taking notes and subsequently testing the limits of my procrastination from the comfort of my own home, I packed my laptop and brought it to the bar.

The bar in question is the Tap Room at the Hollander Hotel, an up-and-coming hangout for happy hour drinkers, downtown professionals, discerning hipsters and yes, even hotel guests. The Hollander is a historic hotel, built on the corner of Fourth and Fourth 80 years ago. Last year, it was renovated as a hip boutique hotel, complete with a full-service spa, coffee shop and tap room.

I'm not sure what it looked like prior to renovation, but a lot of attention has been paid to the overall aesthetic here. At first glance, it seems like an unorganized mishmash of as many different elements and materials as possible — industrial light fixtures, an array of classic framed photos, whimsical neo-Victorian murals, a decapitated elk head above the bar (gross), a baby grand piano, panes of stained glass and a handful of other seemingly incongruous decorations.

Surprisingly, these disconnected elements work extremely well together, giving the Hollander's lobby and its adjoining tap room a funky, Bohemian feel. The kind of a place that a writer might come to work on material while sipping a beer and eating a light snack, even. It's quiet inside, with just over a dozen people scattered about, mostly at the bar. Outside is another story. The front patio, which stretches a good 50 feet or more down the length of the hotel, is packed — even on a Sunday, when there's no happy hour. These are not all hotel guests, so somebody is doing something right.

The tap room I'm sitting in lies between the Brew D'licious Coffee Shop and the hotel lobby. It's a long room, with booths along the wall, high-top dining tables in the center and a bar on the other end backed by a cool-looking stone façade. From the 21 tap handles protruding from the back wall, it's clear that beer lovers have plenty to choose from here. Indeed, there are lots of options, many from Florida-based companies such as Cigar City, Florida Beer, St Pete Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Company and Dunedin Brewery.

I decided to take it easy and order a Florida Lager with the hummus of the day (roasted red pepper). It's a nice lager, with a mild citrus flavor and clean finish. As I finished the pint, the piano player started his set. I'm sure this is the same guy who I saw play here a couple of months ago, shortly after Dave Brubeck died. He played a faithful rendition of Take Five, a pleasant surprise. He's working his way through some jazz standards now, with a quiet backing track on drum duty. It's a good fit for the atmosphere here, and I can see some of the other patrons nodding their heads to the beat.

The general manager stopped by the table, and I asked him how often the Hollander hosts live music. The answer is five nights a week — every night except Monday and Wednesday — but starting this week, a new band will be appearing every other Wednesday.

I ended up ordering another beer — Goose Island Honkers Ale — though I was intrigued by the house cocktail list, a brief but creative menu of four signature drinks, as well as five unique concoctions that combine beer and liquor together as a base. For example, the Lazy Southern combines Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan Brown Ale with Southern Comfort and Jim Beam.

As I drank my beer, I was thinking that it was a good idea to do some work at the Hollander. It's casual, laid-back and has great music. The crowd had tripled since I walked in, so the Hollander's claims of being a "best kept secret" are being put to the test.

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