1. Bars & Breweries

We Tried That: Beerlato at Coolside Gelato Bar in Palm Harbor

Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA covers sea salt gelato, the sweetness of the gelato cutting through the hoppiness of the beer.
Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA covers sea salt gelato, the sweetness of the gelato cutting through the hoppiness of the beer.
Published Jun. 12, 2017

What we tried: Mario Barbara can't eat ice cream. The heavy cream content upsets his stomach, so he was surprised when he enjoyed gelato, which is milk-based, as much as he did during a 2013 birthday trip to Italy with his wife, Leila. When they came back to the States, the Barbaras decided to leave their jobs — Mario's in the oil and fuel industry and Leila as an interior decorator — and open a gelato shop in downtown Palm Harbor.

But Leila, who is "not a dessert girl," wanted a bar. It wasn't until she poured a pumpkin stout over a fresh batch of cinnamon gelato, which Mario makes himself, that she got the idea to combine the two, and Coolside Gelato Bar's "beerlato" was born.

Now, "beerlato" makes up about a third of their business. Open for three and a half years, the shop, which offers coffee and desserts like tiramisu and cheesecakes in addition to gelato, has been serving beerlato for about two. Leila said they get business from out of state, as far as Arizona, and beer representatives from across the country offer libations to add to Coolside's rotating lineup.

Customers have a few options when choosing their beerlato. They can order a single glass, choosing a gelato flavor from the display case and mixing it with a beer of their choice. Or they can order a "landing," similar to a beer flight, made up of four gelato flavors and topped with a craft brew.

How it went: At first, I was suspicious. I like beer, and I don't mind mixing it with things — I once tried to make a Black and Tan with a chocolate porter and mimosa cider — but I was still skeptical, so my first choice was on the safer side.

I went with a nitro milk stout from Left Hand Brewing Co., based in Colorado, and chose a landing of sea salt, Obi-Wan cannoli, chocolate wasabi and coffee gelatos. Leila scooped the Italian-style ice cream into short glasses, lined them up on a platform and poured the stout across the top.

I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Most enthused about the sea salt and milk stout combination, I think I actually clapped my hands when I tried it. The chocolate wasabi tasted like a bitter dark chocolate, with a hint of spice kicking in at the end. I wanted to drain the whole glass.

After sampling all four flavors, I decided to branch out. I wanted Leila to give me anything and everything. Next, she poured Cigar City Brewing's Jai Alai IPA over a glass of sea salt gelato. IPAs are usually at the bottom of my list of beers to order, but the sweetness of the gelato cut through the hoppiness of the beer and made it a sweet treat.

Then, I told Leila to go crazy. We came up with a glass of Oreo and 50 Shades of Green (a minty flavor) gelatos and topped that with Barley Mow's Maven chocolate milk stout. After that, we moved on to lemon Italian ice topped with Peroni, an Italian pale lager. Then, an Italian rose (a wine, not a beer, but still) over the lemon ice as well.

The verdict: I didn't know what to expect when I was driving out to Palm Harbor. Was the gelato flavored with the beer already, or did I make it myself? Did they use stouts and porters, a more obvious choice, or did they use IPAs and pale ales? Would I like it? How would I conceal my face if I didn't?

In an email to the Tampa Bay Times, Leila said that Coolside's "beerlato" has "converted nonbeer drinkers into beer lovers," and I can see why. The treat is like a grownup root beer float, combining the best parts of beer with the best parts of gelato to make it equal parts tart and sweet. If you're looking for something new to try with Dad this weekend, consider this for the beer-loving fathers in your life — or the ones who need a little beer encouragement from something just a little bit sweeter.

Contact Carlynn Crosby at


  1. The cans feature pups who are up for adoption at Shelter Manatee. [Motorworks Brewing]
    The beer, available for purchase in packs of four and cases of 24, will be available until they sell out, the brewery says.
  2. Beverage manager for the Tampa Yacht and Country Club, Kasia Nowakowska prepares a Milk Punch cocktail, the club's signature drink for Gasparilla. Milk Punch contains brandy, simple syrup, heavy cream, milk and is garnished with nutmeg. Nowakowska says the club will make more than 120 gallons of Milk Punch for the annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates on Jan. 25 -- and most of it will be consumed by noon prior to the invasion. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    There’s a lot of history pouring into the glasses along the parade route for the brunch (and even breakfast) cocktails.
  3. Jan. 16• Bars & Breweries
    The Dark is BarrieHaus’ Munich dunkel lager. [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
    In Ybor City, cross over to The Dark side with this dunkel lager. | Local craft beer of the week
  4. Hop Skull #6 Double IPA, Coppertail Brewing Company [Justin Grant  |  tbt*]
    Another cut-above IPA from Tampa’s hop masters. | Local craft beer of the week
  5. Dec. 19, 2019• Arts & Entertainment
    A pint of Malt 45 Lager. [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
    Collaboration with St. Petersburg brewery results in an old-school beer based on malt liquor. | Local craft beer of the week
  6. Dec. 12, 2019• Arts & Entertainment
    Year 3 Barrel-Aged Barleywine, Mastry’s Brewing Co. [Justin Grant  |  tbt*]
    This hefty brew packs a bourbon barrel-aged punch.
  7. Dec. 11, 2019• Arts & Entertainment
    70 Degrees Florida Winter Weizen, 3 Daughters Brewing [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
    St. Pete brewery’s seasonal offering is the perfect sip for for a Florida fall.
  8. Dec. 11, 2019• Arts & Entertainment
    AJ’s on the River in Gibsonton. [Justin Grant]
    Justin Grant’s final column is from a laid-back AJ’s on the River. | Bar review
  9. South Howard Avenue's booming bar scene, and the crowds like this one at MacDinton's Irish Pub and Restaurant, have Tampa officials looking for ways to make the street less congested and safer.
    The night before Thanksgiving has become a traditional time to imbibe before the true holiday commences.
  10. Nov. 21, 2019• Arts & Entertainment
    The Barrel-Aged Ramble Tamble spends time resting in bourbon barrels from St. Petersburg’s Horse Soldier Bourbon. [Photo courtesy of Geneva Johnson]
    The Tampa brewery’s American wheatwine spends some time in bourbon barrels.