While on hiatus at brother-in-law (and ex-Connecticut beer distributor) Rob Neuner’s Gulf Coast summer retreat in Naples during November ‘08, plowed local Dunedin Pipers Pale Ale while relaxing at nearby Sanibel Island and Siesta Key beaches with wife and kids. 100 miles north of Naples in strip mall-lined Gulf Gate section of Sarasota lied cozy restaurant-sportsbar, SARASOTA BREWING COMPANY.

Windowed silver brew kettles greeted customers to stone-walled wood-sided low-ceilinged pub, where multiple TV’s, sports banners, and beer mugs adorn interior. Left bar opposes right dining area behind separate smaller center bar with private balcony above. A stone hearth added warmth. Guest tap beers included Guinness, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada, and Lost Coast brews. Besides decent homemade root beer, vats contained six average-to-good selections.

Quaffed light Saaz-hopped citric-sweet floral-tinged Sarasota Gold and brisk lemon-zipped coriander-spiced acerbity Coriander Wheat with Cobb Salad and mushroom soup while Sunday NFL games started.

After lunch, imbibed musty lemon-bruised grass-hopped Old Prague Pilsner (boasting phenol alcohol pungency), diacetyl-laden caramel-coated orange-dried hop-embittered Sequoia Amber Lager, and dry fig-prune-soured red-fruited dark-spiced Sunset Red (subsumed by dank honeyed malts). For dessert, tried licorice-laced fig-dried cherry-pureed coffee-burnt Midnight Pass Porter.

On the way out, discovered Sarasota-based Norman’s Liquors, the best import-microbrew store in area. Sorry I couldn’t go one-hour north to TAMPA BAY BREWING COMPANY in Ybor City’s historic district, which is reminiscent of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with its bohemian attitude and snug balcony.

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