October 22, 2014

Culture Watch

Over the past few years, hops lovers have slowly infiltrated Southwest Florida.Heads Up, Beer Lovers

Don’t look now, but naples reputation as a wine-only town is slowly eroding. Beer is giving it a run for its money.

Nationwide the craft-brew movement is gaining steam, and Naples, typically thought of as a hamlet for affluent wine collectors and aficionados, isn’t immune. Over the past few years, hops lovers have slowly infiltrated Southwest Florida, bringing with them a beverage that can be every bit as demanding of attention as the best Bordeaux.

 Like most areas, our region has long had a small but passionate group of folks for whom Bud, Miller and Coors didn’t cut it. A good number of British ex-pats made sure a few local pubs were well stocked with decent porters and stouts. Thanks to our German contingent, there were plenty of foreign pilsners and bocks to be quaffed.

But until the nearly simultaneous arrival of Total Wine—and its mammoth selection of brews—and Avenue Wine Café—and its carefully curated cooler—three-plus years ago, it was hard to find a decent craft brew in town. Since then, several bars and restaurants have begun touting their eclectic side. South Street City Oven and Grill offers up 40 craft brews on tap, including 20 that change out to something new on a fairly regular basis. It’s not uncommon to hit up just any old bar in town and find at least one craft brew on tap or in the bottle. And many of the local wine shops are expanding their inventory to include high-quality beer.

But there’s more to this wave of suds than what you can buy at a bar or store. Just as the area’s wine culture has bred a string of folks who transform their love of good wine into buying a winery, homebrewing is exploding. A new brewing supply store, Brewing Daily, opened off Davis Boulevard in Naples late last year and with a strong contingent of loyal patrons. They range from homebrewers who want to create good beers for home consumption to a few groups looking for industrial space to brew for the local market.

A brew pub opened last year on Marco Island. And this year, a group called Naples Beach Brewery hopes to launch a full range of beers into bars, restaurants and stores throughout the region.

None of this is to say that we’ll be seeing a Naples Winter Beer Festival any time soon. But craft beers are quickly becoming the beverage of choice among the young professional set. And as time goes on, we’re destined to see good beer become an acceptable alternative to high-priced vino. So grab a pint glass and come along for the ride.

 

Where to go
Looking for the best beer around? Check out these spots:

Stores

Total Wine & More, 13711 S. Tamiami Trail, Unit 1B, Fort Myers, and 5048 Airport-Pulling Road, Naples. totalwine.com

The go-to shop for variety. Besides having a huge selection of wines and spirits, Total Wine offers hundreds of beers, from individual bottles to cases. With a dedication to seasonal brews, you can find something new in the store almost weekly.

Decanted Wine & Beer, 1410 Pine Ridge Road, Suite 21, Naples.
decantedwines.com

While it doesn’t have the quantity of the bigger stores, Decanted does a great job of keeping new and interesting beers on the shelves. And the staff is just as happy to talk hops as they are about wine.

 

Grab a pint glass and come along for the ride.Bars

Avenue Wine Café, 483 Fifth Ave. S., Naples. avenuewinecafe.com

A constantly rotating list that brings you craft classics, such as Bell’s Oberon and Dogfish Head’s 90-Minute IPA, as well as great seasonal choices. But two things make Avenue stand out—a group of bartenders who are incredibly knowledgeable and a half-off happy hour that runs until 7 p.m.

 

South Street City Oven and Grill, 1410 Pine Ridge Road, Suite4, Naples. southstreetnaples.com

It’s all about the taps. With 40 craft brews available by the pint, you are almost certain to find a beer on tap that you’ll love and maybe discover something new.

 

World of Beer, 13499 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers. ftmyers.wobusa.com

There are 40 beers on tap and an exhaustive selection of bottled beer. (You might need to pack a lunch to get through the 500 or so different varieties, and because WOB doesn’t serve food.) There’s everything from Krušovice Dark, a 3.9 percent alcohol by volume shwarzbier from the Czech Republic, to Samichlaus, an Austrian dopplebock with a whopping 14 percent alcohol by volume.

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