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  1. Bars & Breweries

Bootleggers Brewing offers a tart Tampa take on saison

Adventurous drinkers can try the Cranberry Saison at the new tasting room.

Initially opened as a low-key nanobrewery attached to a Brandon homebrew supply store, Bootleggers Brewing Company has moved down the road into a much bigger space, with a full lineup of unique and award-winning beers on tap for east Tampa and Brandon locals.

Bootleggers features several big brews to match its big new space, including an oaky, Belgian-style tripel that clocks in at nearly 11 percent alcohol by volume and a rich Baltic porter that’s nearly 9 percent by volume. Of the various high-gravity brews on tap, Bootleggers’ Cranberry Saison is perhaps the most compelling.

This beer will not be for everyone. There’s a lot going on in this heady brew, which pours an intriguing ruby copper, bursting with an aroma of tart cranberry and spices like vanilla and clove.

The beer’s cranberry component is noticeably tart, acting as an effective counterpoint to the beer’s rich and potent malt base. The sweet-tart interaction creates an impression of candied cranberry, an effect reinforced by the beer’s bold spice profile.

Considering how full-bodied this Cranberry Saison starts as, it’s remarkable how dry and crisp it finishes, leaving a semi-tart finish that enhances the beer’s drinkability and prevents the bold fruit, malt and spice flavors from becoming overwhelming.

For those merely in search of something fruity, this beer may be a bit bold. For saison diehards, it will likely be too full-bodied and aggressively flavored. For adventurous drinkers, it’s worth seeking out; its kaleidoscope of flavors will keep you engaged during every sip.

Catch Cranberry Saison on tap at Bootlegger’s new Tampa tasting room. It’s still in its soft-opening phase with a grand opening to follow, but it’s open seven days a week, so you’ll have ample opportunities to try this and other beers from a previously obscure neighborhood brewery.

— Justin Grant

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