Bar review: Experiment at Grindhaus Brew Lab

Clearwater’s Grindhaus Brew Lab started as HiFi, a homebrew and barbecue supply store, before opening its small-batch brewing operation to the public nearly two years ago.
Published November 1 2018
Updated November 1 2018

And just like that, Halloween season is over. But I know a place that’s as close to year-round Halloween as you’ll find.

Clearwater’s Grindhaus Brew Lab started as HiFi, a homebrew and barbecue supply store, before opening its small-batch brewing operation to the public nearly two years ago. If the name didn’t tip you off, owners Robb Larson and Lisa Colburn-Larson have a thing for cult cinema — low-budget horror and exploitation films that might have played at seedy “grindhouse” theaters.

Located in the rear of a storage/warehouse/office complex, Grindhaus presents a different setting than your ordinary tasting room. It’s dark and closed off, with a bunker-like feel. There’s ample use of recycled wood pallets, but in this context, it’s more post-apocalyptic than hipster-rustic. You could hole up there to avoid the zombie hordes.

Film posters adorn the walls: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Plan 9 From Outer Space and Army of Darkness are a small taste. There’s a popcorn machine in the back. It’s only logical, then, that the bar also hosts movie screenings every Friday and Saturday, starting at 5 p.m. The first show is somewhat kid-friendly, while the 7 p.m. show is probably not, and the 9 p.m. show is most definitely not.

The screenings often follow a theme, with beers to match. For example, a recent trio of movies focused on the work of John Carpenter. The brews that accompanied the films: The Fog New England IPA, Obey sour ale (named after the messages in They Live) and Halloween brown sugar-and-pumpkin spice stout.

The beer setup is unusual, too. There are no pints, just 8-ounce beakers. Flights are available for $12, which is a bargain, considering that’s the equivalent to two full pints. The styles and beer quality both benefit from the tiny, one-barrel — and often smaller — batch size: frequent brewing is great for experimentation and increased quality.

The styles are a mix of classics and brews that are a touch more exotic. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Convoy, a nuanced and thirst-quencing cream ale, right alongside Franchise Wars, a savory and spicy sour ale flavored with jalapeño and tomatillo. Big Kahuna Tropical IPA is a showcase of fruit-forward New Zealand hops like Motueka and Rakau, while Evil Dead Smoked Red pairs a robust red ale with beechwood- and cherrywood-smoked malts.

That’s the idea, after all: a brew lab. By brewing small and often, Larson and Colburn tweak and tinker as their prime directive. Even if you’re not a cult-cinema fan, you’ll find the experiments well worth your time. If, however, you can rattle off your favorite cult horror films, then Grindhaus Brew Labs is a must-visit. Halloween may be over, but Grindhaus should hold you over for a bit.

— Contact Justin Grant at Follow @WordsWithJG.

Grindhaus Brew Lab

1650 N Hercules Avenue Unit I, Clearwater 33765. (727) 240-0804.

The vibe: A bunker-like nanobrewery tasting room taking inspiration from classic cult cinema.

Food: Bar snacks, $2-$6.

Booze: Beer, $3 for 8-ounce pours.

Specialty: The tap list rotates regularly, featuring seven or eight brews named after various horror and cult films. The selection is a nice balance between cleanly executed typical styles like IPA, cream ale and porter, along with a variety of experimental brews, including creatively flavored sour ales, smoked beers and seasonals like The Hessian’s Revenge, an imperial pumpkin-spiced amber ale.

Hours: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday-Tuesday.