When you read this, American Craft Beer Week will be winding to a close. But at the time of this writing, my enthusiasm for fine beers has not yet been temporarily diminished by the many, many pints that await in the next few days. By the weekend I'll be seeking out pints of water, but until then, I believe I'll enjoy a few fine beers at some of my favorite establishments.
This week, I'd like to draw attention to not one such establishment, but two. Dunedin House of Beer has long been regarded as a top destination for quality brews in the north Pinellas area. With more than 40 constantly changing beers on draft and dozens more in the bottle, Dunedin HoB was far ahead of the curve back when craft beer was still a niche market. In March 2009, a sister location opened in an inconspicuous location in the Fountains Plaza off of U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor, with a similarly voluminous draft list.
Both locations offer a solidly good time, with an endless selection of beers and a knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff. There are specials, sampler flights, and even a rail card that patrons can have punched each time they complete a pint from a tap matching the corresponding number on the card. Once all of the taps have been completed, you get a free T-shirt. Complete three rail cards and you get a punch card for 20 free beers. In addition to all the beer-related fun, there's also entertainment, in the form of live musicians and open-mic nights. And if you can't stay, but you need some brews to go, you can always purchase a growler to take home and throw in the fridge.
That's enough to complete the quality beer bar checklist, but these Houses of Beer have another trick up their sleeves in the form of Randall the Enamel Animal. This peculiarly-named contraption was created by Sam Calagione, the man behind Dogfish Head Brewing Company, for the Lupulin Slam beer competition in 2004.
The competition featured brewers specializing in heavily hopped libations, each presenting the most intensely hop-drenched beers they had to offer. Not one to resort to conventional methods, Calagione got creative, constructing a simple infusing machine with a chamber that could be filled with fresh hop leaves that would come into contact with the beer as it's pushed through the system. The alcohol strips the oils from the hops and creates an incredible fruity, almost herbal flavor that can not be replicated in any other way. The name "Enamel Animal" refers to the tingling feeling left in your mouth, almost as if the hops are eating away at your tooth enamel. Charming.
Well, wouldn't you know it, both Dunedin and Palm Harbor House of Beer happen to have one of these organoleptic hop transducer modules, as Dogfish Head colorfully refers to the Randall. But they don't stop at hops, instead hosting regular events with various beers infused with all sorts of flavorful additions. Vanilla and coffee beans, fresh fruit, cinnamon, caramel, brown sugar - the list goes on.
Dunedin breaks out the Randall every other Tuesday, and Palm Harbor fires theirs up on Sundays. The recipes change each time, often at the vote of patrons between events. But whether it's a hefeweizen infused with fresh oranges or a porter with fresh vanilla and coffee beans, you're likely to end up with something completely different than you've had before.
Randall or no Randall, both House of Beer locations have plenty to offer as top-quality beer bars. I've been to a fair share of these type of bars across the country, including the many right here in the Tampa Bay area. So trust me when I tell you that these guys are the real deal.- firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dunedin House of Beer, Palm Harbor House of Beer
927 Broadway Ave., Dunedin (727) 216-6318, dunedinhob.com; 34970 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, (727) 784-2337; palmharborhob.com
The vibe: A haven for beer nerds and regular thirsty people alike, with 40-plus constantly-changing drafts, a slew of bottles, and a knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Booze: Beer and wine. Prices vary, but all drinks tend to be in the $5-$7 range. Drinks are $1 cheaper during happy hour, until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Specialty: Stop by on Randall Night, every other Tuesday in Dunedin, and Sundays in Palm Harbor. Some of the creations are just plain fun, like the "Neopolitan" - Rogue Chocolate Stout infused with fresh strawberries and vanilla beans.
Hours: Dunedin is open noon to 3 a.m. daily. Palm Harbor is open 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday, 2 p.m. to midnight Sunday.