By Bobby Bush
This Orlando journey has one more phase before time and Hurricane Floyd chased this
beer cruiser home.
Interstate 4 West runs directly to Tampa before petering out as I-275 in St.
Petersburg. It was the old town, Ybor City, as it was called in what once was a melting
pot of diverse cultures and the home of Americaís best cigars, that I was after. With
remarkable ease I found my first target, but departed almost as quickly. New World
Brewery had ceased brewing sometime in early 1999 and now functions as a 16 beer
multi-tap room. An inviting local dive, but not what I was looking for.
Just a few blocks away I found my Florida home away from home. Tampa Bay
Brewing Company started business in February 1997 in a historic building that had
served as a stable in a previous life. Teddy Roosevelt housed his horses there in the
Rough Rider days.
With tons of love, sweat and beer, brewer John Doble and his mother/partner
Vicki, along with other family members, renovated the brick stable into a two story
restaurant/brewpub thatís a beer loverís paradise. Along with 15 imports and Samuel
Adams, TBBC offers ten of their own brews plus one on cask. Beers rotate all the time-
John brews over 30 different beers each year. Those on tap during my visit were a hoppy
amber Redeye Ale; One Night Stand, a deep gold American pale ale; True Blonde, a
succulent kolsch; moderately hopped ESB; the rich, filling Jack the Quaffer, an Old World
London Porter; dry hopped and tart The Mad Hatter; Iron Rat Stout, Irish style, also
served in the smoother, warmer cask version; bitter attacking Old Elephant Foot, an IPA;
an ultra sweet, swiftly finishing Belgian Strong Ale; and deadly 9.8% abv barleywine
called Moose Killer.
John works with a ten barrel brewhouse, utilizing four fermenters and, hereís the
difference, 16 serving tanks. Thatís twice the serving vessels that most brewpubs have,
giving the busy brewer storage and flexibility to brew various styles and experiment to his
heartís content. Each month Tampa Bay moves 80 barrels of their own beer in what John
describes as a ďdestination orientedĒ brewpub. Not really a local hangout or a tourist trap,
patrons seek out the 6,500 square foot brewpub, known not only for excellent beer but
innovative food creations, many incorporating beer as an ingredient, as well. My steamed
clams, served in a beer pitcher, and crab cakes were superb.
After nosing around the upstairs bar, which features a balcony overlooking 15th
Street New Orleans-style, I paid my respects to John and Vicki, and left Tampa Bay
Brewing with a heavy heart.
One last stop before calling it a night and the end of another adventurous brewpub
crawl. In the great state of Florida there are at least twelve Hops Grill & Bar
establishments. Part of a 60+ chain, I chose the Hops in Lakeland for no particular
reason. Ignoring the all-you-can-eat ribs and chicken special, I slithered up to the bar and
ordered a pint of A1Ale, which at this location was called Alligator Ale (wonder why?).
Billed as full body, this was a pleasing though unexciting session pale ale. Unlike other
Hops Iíve visited, the beer was not served in an iceberg encrusted mug, just a nice cold
pint glass. Regardless which Hops you visit, the beer, but maybe not its name, is the
same. In addition to the A1Ale, er, Alligator, thereís the beginnerís Clearwater Light,
bigger Lightning Bold Gold and medium bodied Hammerhead Red.
The bartender was helpful, providing a basket of free chips and salsa. He
explained that their brewer, Al McKendrick, also brewed for the Bradenton Hops, which I
assumed wasnít too far away, though there are three Hops in nearby Tampa. At least he
didnít try to entice me with their menu of mixed beer drinks like Razzberry Ale (beer with
liqueur), Peach Delight (with schnapps), Tequila Gold (without the worm) and the
absolutely essential Red Draw (with tomato juice). Look for an in-depth article on the
Hops chain in a future article.
Taking award-winning Ybor City Brewing, a micro with state wide distribution,
into account, Central Florida is a pretty good place for beer. Cheers!
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush