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Vacation - Sarasota Bar Hopping
We go to Florida to see my family virtually every year at one point or another. We spend the vast majority of our time on the Gulf coast in a town called Venice. Venice is a half hour south of a place called Sarasota (which is a half hour south of Tampa). In the past we've had horrible luck ordering a good beer at any of the many restaurants down there. Thankfully, things are changing and thanks to some helpful research from my Dad, we found an assortment of great beer bars on our trip.

Bar trivia is huge down in Florida. If you want to play trivia, chances are you can find a place that's hosting, regardless of the night. The first night we traveled up to Sarasota, our first stop was a place called Growler's Pub. We got there a bit late but were still able to jump into the trivia game one round in. The bar had a pretty intense dive-bar vibe. It was extremely dark and we entered through a metal door in the back. Once in, we found a place at the end of the bar. It took a bit to get the bartender's attention, but once we did we took advantage of a pretty great tap list.

I tried three different beers. First was Old Speckled Hen, a traditional British beer I had been meaning to try. After that I moved on to two Florida beers, Swamp Head Sciaenhops and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA. Both were surprisingly good! I guess I didn't want to give Florida brewing a chance, but that was dumb. I probably preferred the Sciaenhops, but that had more to do with style preferences than beer quality. I just enjoyed the nice imperial red more than the IPA.

Heather was able to start the evening with a St. Louis Framboise. She's loving her lambics lately and it hit the spot. It was a fitting choice too. During the trivia game I was able to put my growing beer knowledge to good use. They asked, "Which style of beer is brewed using only wild yeasts." It's 'lambic' of course! The second beer Heather tried was a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale from Red Brick Brewing. She loves really malty scotch ales like Old Chub but this one had more smoke to it which she isn't a fan of. We're discovering that the smokiness is probably a trait of Wee Heavy ales, something we probably should have already known.

Surprisingly, at the end of the trivia game one of the bartenders brought us over a medium pizza for free! We were getting pretty hungry and were really surprised by this. It was a nice little perk for trivia players.


After leaving Growler's we had one more stop planned for the night. I had found a place online called The Cock and Bull. Everywhere I looked online, it had great ratings. It also has very strange hours. Three days a week they open at 5pm. The rest of the time they don't open until 8pm. Now this is a bizarrely cool place. It also looks distinctly like a creepy dive-bar from the outside. Once you get inside, the main indoor seating area is quite small. There are tons of fridges filled with great bottle selections as well as a ton of taps.

Before ordering anything we took some time to wander around. The back doors of the bar were wide open and we wandered out to a large backyard area. In the middle was a large fire pit with lots of seats around it. It felt strangely like a frat party... except for the amazing beer choices. We then went back inside to order some drinks. The bartender was very nice and accommodating. I asked him which of the beers on tap he thought were the best that day. He pointed me toward Lazy Magnolia's Southern Gentleman. What a wonderful beer! It's a brown ale that has a wonderful nuttiness to it. I did some research since then and discovered that it is actually a bourbon barrel aged version of their Southern Pecan beer. It's an extremely limited beer that I will probably never get to try again. Let this be a lesson to all. If you are at a great beer bar don't always fall back on one of your known favorites. Talk to the bartender and get their advice!

Unlike Growler's, Cock and Bull did have a food menu. Like the rest of the bar, it was quite bizarre. It featured "candy bars". I wanted to order one to see if they pulled out a Milky Way or something, but didn't. Instead we ordered "pretzels" and expected to just get a bowl of salted ones like you'd get out of a bag. Instead we got some very good hot pretzels with a nice beer cheese dipping sauce. Cock and Bull is definitely a can't miss bar if you ever find yourself in Sarasota.


The following day we made the trip back up to Sarasota with another trivia game in our sites. This time the bar was Mr. Beery's. Unlike the two places from the previous night, this one didn't look like a dive at all. It was in a plaza and was extremely well lit, to the point that it was almost too bright inside. It seems every bar in Sarasota has some sort of quirk though. This one was just weird. The seating area featured more couches than it did tables. There was a rack full of board games near one of the couches and a huge projected screen playing sports in front of the other. As I said before, the lights were on very bright. It felt more like going to a party at someones house than it did a bar.

I was extremely excited to see Dogfish Head 120 Minute on tap. I had never had it that way before and jumped at the opportunity. I was just in time too, as the keg kicked shortly after my pour. Besides that, their tap list wasn't all that impressive. There were a lot of taps that had nothing hooked up to them, so the choices were slim. After the 120 Minute, I was able to try 90 and 60 as well, doing a reverse tour of Dogfish's IPAs. Heather got to get a Southern Tier Mokah representing upstate breweries down south. She enjoyed it. Those Southern Tier stouts are always amazing.

After the trivia game ended, people started breaking out random games. This included a giant form of Jenga. It was all so strange. The people there were a strange mix. I don't know, just a weird bar.


On our way to Mr. Beery's we noticed a sign for Sarasota Brewing Company. This was news to us so we had to stop by before heading home. It's a small but nice place. Thankfully, they had a real food menu. We each ordered a drink and got an order of wings and fries to munch on. The food was good. I enjoyed the wings. They were a nice barbecue style. Beer wise, I got their Winter Special, a Belgian quad. The name made me snicker. There's something funny about a winter seasonal coming from a Florida brewpub. Heather got their porter. They were both really nice beers but we didn't finish our pints thanks to our already full stomachs.


After trying four bars in two days, we can safely say that the craft beer scene is alive and well in Sarasota. I can't wait to check some of these places out again and look for new ones on our next trip.
By Mike on February 28, 2012 at 7:04pm EST Topic(s): vacation beer bars growler's pub the cock and bull mr beery's sarasota brewing company lazy magnolia

Comments

loosgroov
Southern Tier in Sarasota makes me strangely happy. and Mokah, too. I like it. (I also really wish i could have been with you guys on what seems like a very strange 2 days of bar hopping :) )
2/29/2012 at 11:31pm EST

loosgroov
lots of Victory, too. I'm surprised you didn't go for the Ten Fidy.
2/29/2012 at 11:34pm EST
Mike Yeah, we almost got the Ten Fidy but I think both of us were in the mood to try something different.

The bartender also really liked brown ales there so that's why I got the Southern Gentleman. Heather got the Kona brown ale I believe and it was a bit of a let down.
3/1/2012 at 8:44am EST
howie hochberg I started the Cock & Bull Pub in 1997. Back then we were lone pioneers in a Bud town & one of only a dozen or so, in the entire state. It's amazing to see where this craft scene has taken us thus far! SRQ has turned into a great beer scene & per capita...one that would rival any hip college market!Thanks for the kind words, but more importantly, thanks for venturing into a dark, desolate,street in the industrial wasteland of town! It's tough to get folks thru the threshold, but once we do..their hooked for life!
3/23/2013 at 5:48am EDT
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