Dining (or drinking) guide: The Bay area's best beer bars

[image-1]The Dubliner 2307 W Azeele St., Tampa, 813-258-2257; 12836 Henderson Rd., Tampa, 813-300-2076; thedublineririshpub.com

The two locations of this Irish pub don’t settle for just the same old stout and ale options available at similar joints. There’s a hefty selection of beer focused largely on imports.

Dunedin House of Beer 927 Broadway, Dunedin, 727-216-6318 or dunedinhob.com

What is it about 40 taps that makes it the gold standard for big-time beer bars these days? Is there some law of relativity that makes it impossible to break the 40 tap barrier? Honestly, though, 40 is more than enough when they’re filled by the incredible craft- and import-brews available at Dunedin House of Beer.

Dunedin Brewery 937 Douglas Ave., Dunedin, 727-736-0606 or dunedinbrewery.com

Dunedin has the best hangout scene of the three breweries located in the Bay area by a long shot, with a cozy tasting room adjacent to gigantic vats of proto-beer and a big outdoor deck. Besides having the full range of the brewery’s produce on tap, there’s also frequent live music, constant events focused on the brewing cycle and a selection of simple but surprisingly competent bar food to fuel the enjoyment.

The Independent 29 3rd St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-820-9514; 5016 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, 813-341-4883; The Rex 2061 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-822-2337

St. Pete’s standard for beer bars has recently expanded into a couple of new locations, each with a vibe that matches the neighborhood. The HQ in downtown St. Pete is slick and modern, the Seminole Heights spot is casual and rustic, while The Rex in Grand Central feels like a convivial classic pub. Across all of the outlets, however, the beer choices are excellent.

Mellow Mushroom 11955 Sheldon Road, Tampa, 813-926-3440; 10959 Causeway Blvd., Brandon, 813-685-1122; mellowmushroom.com

MM is a chain, but even chains can have a dedication to good suds. Hundred of beers by the bottle, a good selection of craft-brews and imports on tap, and fabulous pizza makes this restaurant a full-service destination for hungry beer lovers.

Mr. Dunderbak’s 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd., Tampa, 813-977-4104 or dunderbaks.com

For years now J.B. Ellis has been a lynchpin of the Tampa beer scene at his Mr. Dunderbak’s. last year the bar/restaurant moved to nicer digs, making it easier to enjoy Ellis’ massive 51 taps, beer engine, hundreds of bottle selections and serious German food. He also hosts meetings of the Tampa Bay BEERS homebrew club and features occasional live music.

New World Brewery 1313 East 8th Ave., Tampa, 813-248-4969

These days, New World is recognized as a serious music venue first and foremost, but the place also has a fantastic selection of beer that puts to shame the $6 plastic cups of Bud or Miller at most concert spots.

Oldsmar Tap House 300 State St. E, Oldsmar, 813-855-9181 or oldsmartaphouse.com

With 36 beers on tap, all pouring interesting American craft-brews, along with a healthy and ever-changing selection of 75 beers by the bottle, Oldsmar Tap House is a beer destination. There’s also a small food selection of straightforward sandwiches and sausage or cheese platter designed to sate your hunger without getting in the way of your serious beer tasting.

Pour House at Grand Central 1208 East Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-402-2923 or pourhousetampa.com

This new beer and wine bar in Tampa’s Grand Central complex near the shipyards is a bright and airy spot with a truly astounding array of 40 taps pouring mostly American craft-brews, along with some key imports.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company 1600 East 8th Ave., 813-247-1422 or tampabaybrewingcompany.com

TBBC is one of the only survivors of the brewpub craze of the 80s and 90s, and for good reason. The location in the heart of Centro Ybor helps, but the real draw are the nine tasty house beers -- and 18 or so seasonal offerings -- brewed in vats and tuns located right in the dining room proper. TBBC’s kitchen takes advantage of the free-flowing beer with traditional pub dishes that incorporate the house brews whenever possible.

Tanks Taproom 13150 North Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, 813-961-2337 or tankstaproom.com

Tanks is called a “taproom” for a reason, with three dozen or so drafts available from across the world, largely focused on Belgians and American craft-brews. The massive sandwiches are almost enough of a reason to stop at Tanks by themselves.

Taps Wine and Beer Merchants 777 North Ashley Dr, Tampa, 813-463-1968 or tapswineandbeer.com

One of the pioneers in reviving downtown Tampa’s nightlife, Taps’ beer and wine selection makes it an easy spot to meet friends after work or a show. The two-dozen taps feature a wide variety of brews ranging from pedestrian to interesting, backed up by an extensive list of bottles and a menu of crowd-pleasing tapas.

Willard’s Taphouse 12500 Starkey Road, Largo, 727-581-8600 or willardstaphouse.com

Another of the Bay area’s great taphouse scene, Willard’s has 40 taps pouring a who’s who of American craft-breweries and exciting imports.

World of Beer 9524 West Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, 813-852-2337?; 17004 Palm Pointe Dr., Tampa, 813-632-0020; 2809 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater, 727-797-6905; 5226 4th St. N, St. Petersburg, 727-525-4589; wobusa.com

Our own local chain of beer bars has expansion in its sights, with 8 locations either open or in the pipeline and more on the way. The formula is simple: a whole lot of beer by the bottle -- displayed where everyone can see it, a good selection of taps, and a slick but comfortable atmosphere that can switch from televisions broadcasting the game to live music in a nonce.

Brew Garden 904 N McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater, 727-797-6622 or thebrewgarden.com

Brew Garden sets itself apart from many of the local beer bars by specializing in European imports. You’ll still find some American craft-brews on tap and in bottles, but the focus is definitely on Belgian classics.

Cider House 1752 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-822-7400 or ciderhouse.us

This cozy pub is just a few blocks from Tropicana Field, with 80 beers that make it a no-brainer for brew-loving Rays fans who want a change from the usual stadium-adjacent sports bars.

Cigar City Brewing 3924 West Spruce St., Tampa, 813-348-6363 x206 or cigarcitybrewing.com

You probably won’t want to hang out for hours in the somewhat sterile setting of Cigar City’s tasting room, but it’s well worth taking a set and downing a few pints of one of Tampa’s (and the world’s) best beer when you come in to fill your growler.

Datz Delicatessen 2616 S Macdill Ave., Tampa, 813-831-7000 or datzdeli.com

Although Datz still suffers from multiple personality disorder — is it a deli, or a restaurant, or a bar? — the beer program here fits into whatever guise the place has on at the moment. There’s a healthy selection of interesting beer by the bottle, sold at prices more geared to the retail market than bar consumption.

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