1. Bars & Breweries

Bar review: Experiment at Grindhaus Brew Lab

Don’t look for the traditional pint glass. The beers are served in beakers at Grindhaus Brew Lab in Clearwater. No lab coat required. Martha Asencio Rhine | tbt*
Published Nov. 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.


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