Beer Store Roundup: Whole Foods on Dale Mabry

Everyone knows Whole Foods on Dale Mabry is the place to be for high quality food and beverages. My favorite thing about the beer section, besides the fact that it's located directly across from the massive cheese cooler, is the presentation. The way the beers are grouped together tells a story, and seeing all those cases of beer sitting out like that does something exciting for me. So cheers to Chris, the specialty department manager, for exercising serious beer wisdom and making this location a beer nerd's playground.

Since this is a Whole Foods, it's no wonder I found a slew of organic beer. For around $10, try the Brown Ale, Pale Ale, or IPA from Vermont brewery Wolavers/ Otter Creek. There's the Pale Ale, Amber, or IPA from Fish Tale Brewing out of Olympia, Washington. You can also pick up 6 packs of IPA and Belgian Ale from San Francisco's Bison Brewing Company. On a related note, mark your calendars for April 25th; owner & Brewmaster Daniel Del Grande of Bison will be at Craftsman House Gallery & Cafe in St Petersburg to promote Bison and to answer questions on brewing, organics & the environment. Daniel will also introduce Bison's "Drink Neutral" program and show how you can "drink away your carbon footprint".

In addition to organic beer, there's a nice selection of organic ciders, including Samuel Smith's Organic Cider, Aspall Organic Suffolk Cider, and JK Scrumpy's Hard Cider.

Most ciders are gluten free, but Whole Foods also carries a variety of gluten free brews, including Toleration from Hambleton Ales, Lakefront Brewery's New Grist, Redbridge by Anheuser Busch, and Discovery, Quest, and Endeavor from the Belgian inspired English brewery Green's.

There were also great deals on local beer, like 25 ounce bottles of Saint Somewhere for less than $10; there's 6 packs of Redhead and Celtic Pale Ale from Dunedin Brewery, Holy Mackerel and Mack in Black from Melbourne's Gordash Brewing, and Orange Blossom Pilsner and OBP Squared brewed in Orlando.

For American micro Belgian style goodness, try 750 ml bottles of 3 Philosophers Cherry Quad, Hennepin Farmhouse Ale, and Ommegang Abbey from Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, NY, priced at only $6.99 each. Also in the big boy department, North Coast's Brother Thelonious, a wonderful Belgian style Dubbel that drinks like a Quad. Other North Coast offerings include Old Plowshare Organic Stout and Cru D'or, an organic Belgian style dubbel that is out of this world.

From Dogfish Head, there's 12 ounce bottles of World Wide Stout, Raison D'extra, 120 Minute IPA, and Midas Touch. And 25 ounce bottles of Red and White or Black and Blue.

Whole Foods had a nice selection of affordably priced strong barleywine ales. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot goes for $10.99 a 6 pack. With $11.99, you can get a 6 pack of Mad River's 2007 John Barleycorn Barleywine or Brooklyn Monster Barleywine. Most impressive, the wood conditioned gems from JW Lee Harvest Ale — a series of barleywines matured in whiskey, port, or sherry casks.

Also from the barrel, a huge variety of vintage Jolly Pumpkin, 1-3 year old batches of nearly every beer in the product line including the extremely rare Madrugada Obscura brettanomyces stout. I bought one of these bad boys when I was there, and let me assure you, it was pure funky heaven.

Japanese brewery Kiuchi takes care of business with their Hitachino Nest beers; the entire line is really superb, blending traditional Japanese ingredients with progressive brewing ideas. Whole Foods carries the Classic Japanese Ale, Espresso Stout, Real Ginger Brew, and Lacto Sweet Stout.

There were some great current and past seasonal releases, like 4 packs of Terrapin Wake-n-Bake for $10, Bell's Expedition Stout at $17 a 6 pack, $15 six packs of Bell's Hopslam, and $9 singles of Avery's The Beast.

As for rarities, Whole Foods had a few gems stashed away that forced me to pull out my wallet and stock up. First, there was Oscar Blues Ten Fiddy, in all its canned Russian Imperial Stout glory. But best of all, Rochefort 6 Trappist Ale. Every sip of Rochefort is like a grandiose beer-gasm, but it has been absent from the local market for the past year due to distribution issues.

Hands down, the best deals — 22 ounce bombers of Reunion '08 Rye Ale for $2.99 and 6 packs of Organic Witbier from Vermont's Otter Creek/ Wolavers Brewing, priced at $3.99. Yes, high quality organic beer for less than 13 cents an ounce or 70 cents a bottle. Can't argue with science.

Whole Foods

1548 North Dale Mabry Blvd

Tampa, 33607

Phone: 813.874.9435

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com

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