This all happened last weekend. We took the sunshine home from Florida, but dropped about 45 degrees. I hope you’ll feel as warm after reading through this as I still do. Remember, flights to TPA are cheap.
Our adventure actually began at least a day before, maybe two. We departed TPA Friday morning after an early Spirit arrival from DTW in our rental Jeep, facing a cool (for FL) cloudy day. The clouds fulfilled their promise as we got to the causeway, causing us to pull over and put up the roof panels. Without the sunshine in FL, you can still eat and drink, so we had some beers and lovely fish at Badfin’s https://www.badfins.com/ on Clearwater Beach. After a snooze, we felt the need for a little more and walked four blocks to the beach to Palm Pavillion.
It is constructed to have big open windows to the beach, now closed in the cool rain. No matter, the beer was good, we had gator bites, and a young duo in the corner belted out 70s hits, all at least two decades older than they were, to the mainly boomer crowd. Kathy and I got into ”unsubscribing” and spent much of the evening with our noses in our phones, all to great musical accompaniment https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/1155.
Saturday brought bright sunshine and the promise of warmth. As we sipped our coffees from the nearby Caffeinated Bakery, I perused the rent-a-car maps of the area and noticed tip of the long spit on which Clearwater Beach is located, there were patches of green: “Caladesi Park” and “Honeymoon Island”. We’d done the shops of Clearwater, and the unbeatable beach, January before last, so off we went to find some undeveloped green, probably 6-7 miles away. The trip carried us through Dunedin, which seemed like a nice little town, on Mandalay Bay. Honeymoon Island was Hog Island before a developer got hold of it in the 20s and constructed thatched huts, pitching them to northerners through organs as big as Life and Post as great places to come for an idyllic honeymoon. The enterprise failed in the Depression, and the land reverted to the state, which kept the name. Not much out here now, except for some parking lots, beaches, and convenience centers with bathrooms and bad beer. The beaches go from sand to stones size of cobblestones and chunky shells, calling for hiking boots rather than bare feet.
After we’d had enough beach and Gulf (can that even happen?), we were off back to the mainland. The causeway barely had a chance to start before it presented us with High and Dry Grille, looking like something the Gilligan’s Island crew might have thrown up: all timbers and thatch. But they mustered up beer (Reef Donkey, from Tampa), and some shrimp tacos. You could tell from the nearby beach structures what these dudes were into.
There were some surfers at the beaches, wearing wet suits of course. We didn’t dip our toes in the water. While sitting there, we consulted our phones for beer options on the trip back to Clearwater and were, as Jennifer Granholm would say, blown away. Here see what Yelp told us (these screenshots are from inside Dunedin, but you get the idea)
Once the causeway hit land, it would stop at Frenchy’s, a lively looking spot with a full parking lot.
A low open structure with wide open windows, it was easy to see how location plus a modicum of competence with food and drink engendered great success, now being commercialized with t-shirts, tchotchkes, and such. We put our names on the cell phone driven waiting list and slithered into to the “tiki bar”, where beer and basketball could be had. To “the Other West Coast IPA” and a “Hazy River” we watched my good friend’s Hoosiers blow a lead to the Spartoons. From there, we chose to go a little north, to a spot we’d not likely encounter when we came back to Dunedin tomorrow, with an intriguing name
We got up Bay Shore Boulevard a bit and saw it in a small strip mall, immediately stripped of the romance of that name. But we were about to be charmed in many ways. First the beer was excellent and varied
The real action was in the back, where locals were gathered for a weekend performance by Greg West https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH5m75Yc19g&list=PL0ELQBIX9vlZnMjKA_PC4QfIs7JK5748G.
Made for a great atmosphere, and we got to talk to the locals, helped out by one guy who insisted on introducing us around.
The turquoise VW microbus had taps for those who didn’t want to venture back inside
There was even a Girl Scout cookie concession
After all that, we wandered back to our Clearwater Beach condo, where brother John visited us with wine, seafood, and cigars, which we consumed into the night on our deck by the water.
We awoke Sunday with the mission afore us. I’d found there was a water taxi from a dock near us over to Dunedin. Sounded like a perfect ploy, a little time on the water and no driving
I booked the ticket to the wrong landing and we were forced back to the Jeep. We still chose to park in the Dunedin marina parking lot, where all needs would be taken care of.
But inland we went, our destination the Dunedin beer trail. There are 8 breweries in Dunedin, all located within 4797 feet of each other (https://breweriesofdunedin.com/)
We headed to the oldest microbrewery in Florida, the Dunedin Brewery itself. It announced itself at the curb with ample aplomp
But the shield on the side of the bar was far more impressive
No bagpipes played during our visit. The board provided ample choice.
We picked the “American Classic” and “Piper’s Session”, packing up and moving on from their friendly outdoor tables with miles to go before we sleep. Turns out everyone was outdoors in the sun. Oh, Florida.
Next, just around the corner, was HOB “House of beer”, I suspect.
Their board did not make for a great picture, as it was a screen, much as our hometown favorite Rappourt displays. A camera shot reflects the photographer, much as the Vietnam Memorial does
We had a “Cool Cucumber IPA” and “Splashin’ Around IPA”. Kathy said she could taste the cucumber, and she liked it.
HOB has a mobile unit, which I hear they can deploy to disaster areas.
Man does not live by beer alone, and some sustenance is sometimes in order. Wouldn’t you know what’s right next to HOB on the Pinellas (bike) trail.
Wouldn’t you know, there are lobsters in the gulf! https://www.floridagofishing.com/species/lobsters-south-atlantic-and-gulf.html#:~:text=Lobsters%20of%20the%20South%20Atlantic%20%26%20Gulf%20of%20Mexico&text=There%20are%20many%20species%20of,%2C%20you%20are%20%22Bug%20Hunting%22
And in Florida, lobsters are often called “bugs” and going out for lobsters is called “bug fishing”. Well, we were salivating for some of them “bugs”. Lucky Lobster offered a full array of delights.
But Kathy and I were fully satisfied with our lobster rolls, served hot with butter, a sacrilege to any New Englander.
The “Shade Tree IPAs” we had washed it down just fine.
Wouldn’t you know what’s right next door? I got shouted down by several bicyclists as I stood in their path to take this picture.
Cueni was next.
The monkey skull and paddles suggest some sort of strange frat house hazing, but I didn’t ask.
Perhaps the most complicated beer board of the tour, with all the colored asterisks for pricing. Helped Kathy to cut back a little, taking on just 8 oz for this stop. 16 oz still the best price per volume deal.
We tried “T’Rye my IPA” and “MoCitra”. We weren’t ready for “Nap Time” yet, although I’m sure it was delicious.
Bar walls can contain wisdom, especially in the men’s rooms. At Cueno, they had this on the wall. I have a good friend who is a genius scientist but also a beer aficionado. I suggested to him this would be a good hanging for his lab:
Next was a bit of a walk up to Douglas, a main drag, half mile down from Dunedin Brewery. There was an alpine building, the beer end of a functioning woodwright business.
Once inside, the place was quite charming. Honey, we’re in Frankenmuth!
Beers were o.k., with the most creative board on the tour
We had the IPA and the NE Hazy IPA.
Next was back to Main Street. We approached Soggy Bottom from the back.
Notice the BBQ shack next door. Getting food on these beer tours can be difficult, as few of the breweries devote much of their efforts to food service. Soggy Bottom offered a couple pizzas, but I could tell their heart wasn’t in it. Beer was varied and good at Soggy Bottom.
We went with the”Two-face”. Plus, they contributed some bar wisdom.
En route to Soggy Bottom, we got word my brother John, wife Karen and son Ian wanted to meet us for late lunch. They’re in Clearwater and we’d been working all weekend for a time to get us all together. While they all thought BBQ was excellent, the place next door had run out of its two main items, including ribs. Fortunately, right next door, was Clear Sky Draught Haus. With a name like that, beer would not get short shrift.
That’s John and Karen, Kathy with her back to us. No, that heater wasn’t fired up.
Plus, they were good for some more bar philosophy
And they remembered when times were tough in this country.
Food and conversation were good, and we finally parted. From there, it was a walk back to the parking lot at the marina. What should be on the way?
We may have saved the best for last, as the beer at Caledonia was terrific. “Hoptacular IPA” we chose, and it was.
Not sure who was being protected by those orange plastic barriers, but they sure weren’t going to get any smash and go beer thieves!
Since they were protected by a rampant unicorn, it’s hard to imagine any ill befalling them.
In a day of impressive beer boards, they may have had the best, even if they devoted nearly a third of it to wine:
From there, it was the matter of negotiating the 7 miles down Ft. Harrison to the causeway and over to 607 Bay Esplanade. We did, but neither of us recalls much of the ensuing evening. We talked of walking the beach at sunset and heading back to Palm Pavillion, but none of that happened. I guess we’d had our ample share of fun in Dunedin, and would do it again in a second, perhaps with the discipline of a water taxi departure bearing on us next time. So much to love about the Gulf Coast, and this little Scottish town (home of the spring training Blue Jays) is one of them. “In God we trust” (Florida’s state motto).
Can be yours. Like I wrote at the start, flights to TPA are cheap.