For the past couple of years, the Brass Tap Carrollwood has boasted an extra perk over the chain's other bay area locations: an in-house brewery. Earlier this month, the bar and restaurant briefly closed for renovations, reopening with a few more perks, like barrel-aged bourbon cocktails and a new focus on bar games.
If you have been to a Brass Tap location, you know what to expect: a massive draft list and a bottle selection climbing into the triple digits. There's food, of course, as well as a concise wine list and a full liquor bar.
The latter element has been emphasized at Carrollwood, with a renewed focus on whiskey, primarily bourbon and other American whiskeys, but also including well-spotted international selections, like Nikka Pure Malt and Coffey Grain from Japan and Kavalan Classic from Taiwan.
It's hard to miss the row of small oak barrels lined up above the bar's 60 taps. These are cocktails in progress: Manhattans and old-fashioneds. The Brass Tap's version of the former is made with Four Roses, cabernet sauvignon, sweet vermouth, Peychaud's barrel-aged bitters and Luxardo maraschino liqueur, garnished with deep-red maraschino cherries. The old-fashioned is made with the same, minus the wine and plus an orange peel. Both sit in the barrels for 21 days, taking on some cool barrel flavors, like a pronounced vanilla.
A little extra process is par for the course, given the fact that 10 percent of the tap list is brewed behind a glass partition in the corner. Carrollwood Brewing Co. is the house brand, served exclusively at this bar. I'd never visited, which is a shame, because the beer is quite good.
I tried all six on draft and not a stinker in the bunch. I especially enjoyed the rye pale ale, which is a style I've found to be personally polarizing, with the majority falling on the wrong end of my tastes. CBC's version is right up there with my favorites. Chocolate Covered Cherry (no description needed) was also a treat, as was the fruit and tart Tribute to a Sunset.
The beer selection at large is something to see. While 60 taps and 150-plus bottles and cans isn't outrageous these days, this one includes a lot of deep cuts, like Crooked Stave Batch 8 and Batch 10 from the Origins series, as well as some quality domestics that tend to get lost in the shuffle of so many excellent, smaller local beers. Stuff like Magic Hat Taken for Granite and Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing, two big-name iterations of the Northeast IPA trend.
The other major part of the Brass Tap's renovation, apart from brightening the place up a bit and rolling out the new whiskey and barrel-aged cocktail program, is the addition of a micro-arcade next to the brewery. Ever wanted to play Mortal Kombat II on a big screen? Here's your chance, courtesy of an attached Sega Genesis. Another TV is hooked up to an NES Classic, stocked with old games ranging from Tecmo Bowl to Castlevania and my specialty, Dr. Mario.
There's pinball, darts and board games, too. You'll find TVs covering essentially every vantage point within the place, so you can always catch a couple of sporting events.
All of these elements combined could make the Brass Tap a hodgepodge of sports bar, brewery, mega taproom, cocktail joint and arcade bar, but it's casual enough to work just fine. Purists in any one of those regards might find the combination to be a little much, but if you're in the market for an unpretentious drinking establishment with a staggering range of great beverage options and some fun diversions to chase them with, the Brass Tap Carrollwood is well worth a visit.
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To celebrate the renovation and shift in focus, the Brass Tap is holding a week's worth of events to coincide with the reopening. Perhaps the best introduction — or reintroduction, as it may be — is Friday, when the bar will hold a tasting for its barrel-aged bourbon cocktails from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet with Nick Streeter, Carrollwood Brewing's head brewer (and also a brewer at Late Start Brewing, which expects to open near Channelside later this year).
Get some bourbon, try some new local brews and see if you can't help Dr. Mario cure some digital illnesses, while you're at it.
Contact Justin Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG