When in St. Petersburg, It's All About the Beer Watching
I’ve never been a beer drinker. In college, my dates had to pony up for sloe gin or a really nice bottle of white zinfandel if they wanted me to enjoy keggers. So only a mother’s unconditional love for her child induced me to go on a brewery tour with my son Zack in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was down there to attend a conference and pick up a writing award for Franchise Times from the American Society of Business Publication Editors conference, but it soon became obvious that attending to Zack would be much more fun than the prospect of sitting in a classroom in a beach town. Parents of adult children with their own children so seldom get one-on-one time with those said adult children that we must latch onto it when we get it.
There was no shortage of breweries to tour, but we settled on three because they were all in close proximity of each other. Interestingly, the only thing they had in common was brewing their own beer on site. The first, 3 Daughters Brewing, had valet parking and artists studios across the parking lot. It also sported the largest production plant and was going for family friendly. The canning production line served as a backdrop for a stage featuring live music and a couple dozen games, including shuffleboard, pool and children’s board games. A separate room, past their consumer beer-testing lab, housed two ping pong tables. Outside were cornhole (beanbag tossing games) and a food truck selling sweet and savory crepes. I have the reputation as the best rolled-up pancake maker in the world, but Zack admitted these were better. (I hope he’s not expecting me to get up early the next time I visit and make him “crepes.”)
The second brewery we visited, Pinellas Ale Works, had a dog theme, including a pawprint logo. The outside beer garden was dog friendly (as they all were), but this one furnished poop bags, in expectation of some long stays. The dog theme bubbled over the top with its beer names: Milk Bone, Doberman and Off the Leash. I had just read that the popularity of breweries was making it hard to come up with clever names for beers and I think we witnessed this firsthand. The only game here was darts, and not a child in sight.
Third, but not least, was Cage Brewing, Zack’s favorite because he nominated the peanut butter fudge stout as one of his all-time favorites. This was the hipster brewery. Its caged octopus logo was pretty cool, and a pinball-style game with free Pac Man was a sure sign they were going after guests Zack’s age. An oversized patio and lawn provided an oasis from the heat and humidity. There were toys for toddlers, but not a lot for older kids.
My only beef with these breweries is that cater only to beer drinkers. When I asked for a glass of ice with my ginger ale, I was told I could have a glass, but they didn’t have any ice. A beer drinker may appreciate a glass without ice, but it is as useless as a dog at a cat fight to a soft-drinker.
We didn’t go on the Brew Bus tour (why would we, Zack had his own personal designated driver?), but it’s an interesting idea. In addition to stopping at local pubs (Tampa Bay is ranked as one of the top five beer cities in the nation), they have their own brews with clever names like Last Stop Pale Ale.
All in all, Tampa Bay was a success: an award, time with my son and a blog post. The only blip was at the airport where I spotted a young woman in high-heels and a sash, carrying a four-foot trophy. All of a sudden, the piece of paper in a cardboard holder in my suitcase didn’t seem so special—and I’d missed my opportunity to drown my sorrows in my beer.