Staring down yet another aimless stumble up Seventh Avenue, South Howard or Gulf Boulevard? We feel you. The best pub crawls are those with a theme, and we don't just mean costumes. We think a good pub crawl should have a mission, a raison d'etre, a theme that unites every stop along the way.
So, inspired by the recent Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg film The World's End, we devised a few themed pub crawls of our own in Tampa Bay (okay, fine, we borrowed one from the Tampa Bay Brew Bus). Each one has four or stops within stumbling distance, plus a hotel at the end in case you're too sloshed to drive home. With a little caution and planning, these seven crawls are great ways to sample some of Tampa Bay's best bars and drinks.
Ready to go?
Downtown St. Pete: Craft beer, straight from the source
You've got your ear to the pint glass, and you know the score: St. Pete is quickly becoming one of the hottest areas in Tampa Bay for locally brewed craft beer. Since you're in the know, it's your job to get your friends in on the action, and that means a beer-centric pub crawl, downtown St. Pete style.
First stop: Green Bench Brewing Co. (greenbench.com) is the latest edition to the St. Pete beerscape, and with its huge, sunny beer garden, it's a perfect place to organize and warm up with a round of bocce ball and Green Bench IPA, a hop-heavy pale ale that registers on the low end of the alcohol scale (it's all about the pacing). Alternatively, try the Skyway Wheat, a crisp, refreshing American wheat ale.
Second stop: While you're still able to walk a straight line, take the seven-block hike to downtown's first brewery, Cycle Brewing (pegscantina.com/cycle-brewing.html) featuring beers with bike-themed names, like Fixie and Freewheel pale ales, as well as Peddle Breaks, a limited, double dry-hopped blend of Freewheel and Fixie.
Third stop: Work up an appetite as you walk to Mike's Tap and Tavern (mikestapandtavern.com), where you'll find pizza, sports, and a bevy of bay area beers from Cigar City and Cold Storage (Tampa), Big Storm (Odessa), Dunedin Brewery (guess), and Rapp Brewing (Seminole). Make sure to try St. Pete Orange Wheat, the flagship beer from St. Pete Brew, slated to open downtown later this fall.
Fourth stop: If you opted for a liquid diet at Mike's, consider a bite at Bella Brava (bellabrava.com). Of course, you'll need something to wash it down with, so try the 2B beer, a rotating selection of in-house 10-gallon batches brewed by chef Ty Weaver. Selections range from ciders to IPAs; the current offering is a golden ale.
Fifth stop: Wrap things up at The Ale and the Witch (thealeandthewitch.com), St. Pete's most popular craft beer bar, and a vital fixture in the local scene. There's always something local on tap, like Cigar City's Tocabaga red ale, or 7venth Sun's Saison Extrême. Stretch out in the large courtyard and listen to some live music, featured nightly.
Hotel: The Hollander Hotel (hollanderhotel.com) is just a short walk back up the road, so grab a room and sleep it off. Best of all, there are 21 beers on draft, including several local options, just in case you can stomach another pint at this point.
St. Pete Beach: Fun (and rum) in the sun
You can't swing a snorkel in St. Pete Beach without hitting a sprawling waterside resort or hotel, and nearly all of them have some sort of straw-roofed hut where you can sip banana-flavored rum drinks while listening to a dude in flip-flops strum out Margaritaville. That makes it a perfect destination for a pub crawl in the sand. In fact, there's a crawl there on Saturday, starting at 5 p.m. at the Undertow (3830 Gulf Blvd.). We combed the beach in search of five walkable waterfront bars, and picked out the beachiest concoction at each. If your tastes vary, don't worry; plenty of rummy alternatives abound.
First stop: Bongo's Beach Bar at the Grand Plaza Hotel (grandplaza florida.com) has an array of creative shots, frozen drinks and cocktails. The fuschia-tinted Zombie (dark rum, triple sec, almond liqueur and tropical juices) offers a candy-like tingle, but a nice, simple starter might be Suzie's Sunshine — Bacardi Limon, pineapple juice and lime juice. "An early afternoon favorite!" the menu calls it, and we can't disagree.
Second stop: Harry's Beach Bar at the Sirata Beach Resort (sirata.com) has a small but acceptable menu, especially if it's chilly and you want to huddle around the fire pit. If you want to keep it simple, try the rum runner; for something a little thicker, go with a Lava Flow, a frozen mix of light rum, strawberrry daiquiri and piña colada mixes.
Third stop: The TradeWinds Resort (tradewindsresort.com) serves the same drink menu at both Salty's Tiki Bar and the Flying Bridge by the pool. Frozen drinks are the specialty here, but the Bahama Mama — coconut, light and dark rums; pineapple and orange juices; and grenadine — is a solid rocks option.
Fourth stop: The signature drink at Jimmy B's Beach Bar, located at the Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel (beachcomberflorida.com), is a blueberry-tinged piña colada called the Wet Spot. If you feel silly ordering a drink called the Wet Spot (we don't blame you), the Blue Hawaiian (coconut rum, blue curacao and pineapple juice) is an acceptable substitute.
Fifth stop: End your night at the Postcard Inn on the Beach (postcardinn.com), where the PCI Beach Bar serves a perfectly dessert-like drink called the Bushwacker, a frozen drink made from vodka, Kahlua, vanilla ice cream and chocolate. Too heavy? Try the Weed Wacker, which blends sweet tea vodka, amaretto and lemonade. What would Arnold Palmer say?
Hotel: C'mon, St. Pete Beach is stocked with like a million bajillion hotel rooms. Pick one and you're set for the night.
Tampa: Ride the rails around town
Celebrate one of Tampa's under-used treasures by taking a daytime jaunt from bar to bar via the trusty TECO Streetcar Line. Conveniently located stops allow partiers to tour Tampa's downtown, Channelside District and Ybor City for a measly $5 all-day pass. Park in the Centro Ybor Garage or down at the Tampa Convention Center to make sure you've got a place to lay your head after a wild ride. Hop on the Streetcar at the Convention Center stop and ride into Ybor, or park at Centro Ybor if you're going in reverse.
First stop: Take in some warm weather and chest-burning shots at Tequila's Restaurant and Bar (tequilasybor.com) at 1613 E Seventh Ave. Pad your tummy with a little Mexican fare before heading to the Centro Ybor Streetcar stop to make your next move.
Second stop: Hop off at Channelside Drive and between McKay and Madison streets and walk down to The Pour House (pourhousetampa.com) at 1208 E Kennedy Blvd. #112, inside the Grand Central at Kennedy. Enjoy a few of the 40 taps of craft beer and 65 craft bottle selections before heading back to the Streetcar stop. The next destination is not far, but by now you'll appreciate not having to walk.
Third stop: Get off at Channelside Bay Plaza (channelsidebayplaza.com) and go crazy. If you're hungry and want more drinks, there's Hooters. If you're hot, there's Wet Willie's — dishing out alcohol-filled frozen drinks to add brain freeze to your buzz. When you've gotten your fill of the college days stop, head back to the streetcar to take this baby home.
Fourth stop: Step off on Old Water Street between Florida Avenue and Franklin Street and glide toward The Sail Pavilion (facebook.com/SailPavilion) on the Riverwalk at the Convention Center to take in the Hillsborough River's finer points as you sip your final drinks (and lots of water) before calling it an afternoon.
Hotel: If this is your route, you've got choices galore, but the hotels within stumbling distance are the Embassy Suites Tampa Convention Center or the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. If you started in Ybor City, just hop back on the Streetcar and hop off on N 13th Street at E Seventh Avenue and amble to the Hampton Inn and Suites Tampa Ybor and Downtown.
Tampa Bay Brew Bus: Drink while they drive!
If you like your pub crawls informative, well-planned and complete with copious amounts of beer, then the Tampa Bay Brew Bus is for you. Whether you book a full bus for you and your friends ($115-$145 an hour, for a minimum of four hours, and you pick the stops) or hop on one of the prearranged tours, you'll be able to visit the local breweries, drink to your heart's content, and not once fun afoul of the law (unless you try especially hard). Renting a party bus has never been so … responsible? Here's a sample of one of the itineraries, which generally range from $25-$45 and feature complimentary Tampa Bay Brew Bus beers while onboard, as well as a tour and free pint at each brewery. This four-hour Brew Bus Halloween Bash (Oct. 26, $45 per person) is costume-themed, which we all know is perfect for pub crawling. For details on this and other Brew Bus happenings, see tampabaybrewbus.com.
First stop: Cigar City Brewing (cigarcitybrewing.com). The bus departs from CCB, which also happens to be where its Rollin' Dirty red ale; Are Wheat There Yet? hoppy wheat ale; You're My Boy Blue blueberry ale; and Last Stop IPA are brewed. Get there early to enjoy a pint of one of CCB's many tasting room-only offerings before the bus departs.
Second stop: Rapp Brewing (rappbrewing.com) in Seminole is the first stop. Greg Rapp is known for his excellent recreations of obscure Eastern European styles, such as the ever-popular Gose (a wheat beer brewed with salt and coriander), Lichtenhainer (a Berliner Weisse spinoff brewed with smoked malts), and the smoked Märzen, a smoky, savory version of the Oktoberfest classic.
Third stop: Next up is Barley Mow Brewing Company (barleymowbrewingco.com), a Largo nanobrewery known for its Unkindness Black IPA, a roasty, rich beer bursting at the seams with fresh hops. Make sure to try some limited seasonal offerings, like Lord of the Gourd or Pumpkin Curry (both perfect for October), or Selkie Belgian Rye Pale Ale.
Fourth stop: Dunedin Brewery (dunedinbrewery.com) is the last stop before heading back to Cigar City. This is your chance to get some food in your stomach while matching flavors with some of the bold seasonal offerings, like the IPA Chronicle 10: Double Oatmeal Pale Ale. For a refreshing palate cleanser, try the excellent Apricot Peach Ale, or the seasonal Lemongrass Lemon Wit.
Hotel: Although the TBBB folks will gladly cart you and your drunken buddies around the bay area, when the tour is over, there's no need to reach for the keys. A quick Google search for "hotel near Cigar City" returns many results within easy walking distance, with comments ranging from "average place in a questionable location" to "great location, good value." Hey, there's something for everyone!
West Shore: The ultimate bachelor party
If you're looking for a hedonistic place to send your groom-to-be pal off in style, sure, you could check out Ybor City or SoHo. But the most bro-tastic stretch in Tampa is — surprise! — the West Shore business district, with its drinks, steaks and girly-girls galore. We recommend getting a hotel room at one end, then wending your way from the opposite end back. (And any bachelorette parties who want to attempt this same crawl have our utmost and undying respect.)
First stop: Pregame at WestShore Plaza, where two featured restaurants, P.F. Chang's (pfchangs.com) and Maggiano's Little Italy (maggianos.com), serve two of the best gin and tonics anywhere in Tampa Bay.
Second stop: Need a snack? Want to catch a game? Stop by Hurricane Grill & Wings (hurricanewings.com), whose massive menu of pub grub includes some 35 varieties of wings and 40 beers on tap. Bonus: They've also got pool and pop-a-shot hoops.
Third stop: Steak time! You have no shortage of options (Shula's, Ocean Prime, The Palm, Capital Grille), but we'll send you to Ruth's Chris (ruthschris.com), not only for the meat but for the vintage-inspired cocktail menu, featuring modern twists on the manhattan, the sidecar, the sazerac and the mint julep.
Fourth stop: What bachelor party would be complete without a trip to Thee Dollhouse (theedollhouse.com)? One of Tampa's premiere high-end strip clubs, it's got a modicum of classiness (many women go here), plus they sell martinis and other cocktails. Get your boy a bottle of bubbly and a fat stack of singles.
Fifth stop: Soak up the night at International Plaza. Some of Bay Street's best bars and restaurants keep their kitchens open well past midnight. Of course, if you just want a craft beer at Bar Louie or a bourbon flight at The Pub, hey, that's just fine, too.
Hotel: If this is your route, stay at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel (marriott.com), which is connected to the mall. But the best thing about a West Shore pub crawl is that it works the other way, too. Start with beers and burgers at International Plaza; up the ante with a classic cocktail at Ocean Prime; get freaky at the Penthouse Club, unwind at Waffle House and close up shop at The Palm or Shula's.
Dunedin: Slow your roll on the Pinellas Trail
Riding a bike is fun, and drinking is funner still, but the laws of the land dictate that the two must remain mutually exclusive. However, with a little planning and a full day free, you can get some exercise, then thoroughly erase all of the benefits of that exercise, all while enjoying the great outdoors and the beautiful city of Dunedin — all without getting a boot on your bike. Whether you're coming from the north or the south, a ride to and from Dunedin on the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. If that's too much work and not enough pub crawling, find a hotel within short biking distance and make that your home base instead.
First stop: You've had enough fresh air and peaceful scenery. When you spot the tiny wooden bridge connecting the Trail to Bauser's Full Liquor Bar (520 Douglas Ave.), cross it and lock your bike up on the rack out back. The bar's mascot is a dog smoking a cigar with a frothy mug of beer at his paws, so that should give you an idea of what to expect. This impressively-smoky dive is nevertheless tidy and well-kept, with comfortable upholstered seats, a friendly bartender, and cheap drinks. You could cut straight to the whiskey, but don't go too wild, as you still have some riding to do.
Second stop: Next, head a few blocks down to Skip's Bar & Grill (371 Main St.), a bike-friendly corner pub in the picturesque downtown area. No need to lock up here, as you'll want to sit on the front patio and people-watch on Main Street while you sip a cold one.
Third stop: If you're a bit tipsy at this point, don't worry. Dunedin Brewery (dunedinbrewery.com) is only two blocks away, so no need to ride. They also serve food, which is probably advised at this point. Order something bold to drink, like the dry Nitro Stout, the Biere de Café (made with locally roasted coffee and chocolate), or the Pumpkin ale (brewed with pumpkin, spices, and vanilla beans).
Fourth stop: Dunedin House of Beer (dunedinhob.com) and 7venth Sun Brewing (7venthsun.com) are located less than a block from each other, and they're both virtually next door to Dunedin Brewery. Pick one or try both — it's your call. At Dunedin HoB, you'll find 40 beers on draft from all around the world, an extensive bottle selection, and plenty of pub games to keep the group busy, like shut the box, shuffleboard, and oversized Jenga. 7venth Sun is a tiny but much-acclaimed brewery specializing in super-fresh IPAs (the Summer Camp series, featuring beers made with experimental hop strains is a must), barrel-aged beers, and Belgian-style ales fermented with wild brettanomyces yeast.
Fifth stop: Have a few glasses of water and take some time to sober up, then hop back on the bike and pedal up to Sandbar Grill (sandbargrilldunedin.com), a roadside bar and grill that's part food truck, part open-air greasy spoon, located one block off the Pinellas Trail. There's plenty to eat here, and the beer is served cold (in a frosted mug, or by the can) and cheap ($1.50-$2.50 for most, including craft cans like Woodchuck hard apple cider). At $4, the cocktails, made with wine-based imitation spirits, are also a deal, featuring twists on the classics — madras, margarita, sea breeze, rum and coke and even a bloody mary.
Hotel: Done riding for the day? Grab a room at the Seaside Artisan Motel (seasideartisan.com), a homey and budget-friendly nine-room motel located less than a block from 7venth Sun.