With a week in Florida under our belts we wistfully left our rental home behind. Since our flight wasn’t departing until the following day we got a hotel room in nearby Apollo Beach. With my in-laws car jammed to the literal brim, we made a few last stops on Anna Maria Island and then hit the road. We had an hour or two before check-in, and what better way to kill the time than to visit the local craft brewery: Four Stacks Brewing Company.
Pulling into a small strip mall it struck me the vast change in location from our last taproom. Facing a BMO Harris Bank and nestled next to a resale apparel store and dance studio, it’s a far cry from the towering oak tree and massive brick building of Motorworks Brewing Company. Yet for a small craft brewery, where the lease is approachable and the space practical, most places can be made to work.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the facade. While bracing my eyes from the sweltering Florida sun I followed my companions into the taproom. As is normal in situations like these I was taken aback by the transformation that well done interior decoration can do. If you dropped me into that taproom with no context I could never have guessed we were in a strip mall. Sunlight streamed from their windowed facade, with warm lighting dotting the tables and bar. A yellow glow played against the underneath of the bar, creating a very inviting approach to their tap list; written, as most lists are, on a chalkboard. There were a handful of people already enjoying some beers but plenty of open space. Before ordering we grabbed a high top table across from the bar, and I oriented myself for maximum picture taking.
They had 16 taps total, 10 of their own and 6 other local brews. While I reviewed their list, my mother-in-law kept remarking on the table. Throughout our visit I would hear that it was a “beautiful table” and “the prettiest table I’ve seen in a brewery.” High praise! I put my order in and glanced around a bit more at the decor. This seems to come in two waves for me. First I get my initial impressions and then I delve into the details. I hadn’t put two and two together but the brewery is nautically themed. Four Stacks sort of slipped my brain but their logo tied it together for me. It relates to steam stacks on a large ship, and along with a mural of a boat on the wall and nautical flags it created a much different feel than breweries in the midwest (with some exceptions like Excelsior Brewing Company).
I had a four beer flight, and then a pint to finish. The first four were the El Indio Brown Ale, Martin the Warrior Hefeweizen, Sun City Fruit Ale, and Mr. Anderson Black IPA. Of the four Martin the Warrior was my favorite. It was smooth for a hefeweizen and really easy to drink. A really good summer beer and hit the spot for a guy who’d been sticking to the shade for a week in the Florida heat. I ended with the Iron Eagle Pale Wheat Ale. It was also a beer I could drink all day. Hazy, brownish, straw yellow, and a smooth wheat flavor really hit the spot. Easily my favorite beer at Four Stacks. I was also able to try my mother-in-law’s Big Top Deckin’s Indulgence. Next time I’m in nearby Sarasota I’ll have to stop in since this brown ale brewed with peanut butter and roasted chocolate reminded me of Dangerous Man’s Peanut Butter Porter!
While it doesn’t have a flashy exterior or unique location, Four Stacks Brewing Company has what craft beer fans really care about: well brewed beer. The interior is fantastic and the low key vibe we found on a weekend afternoon is something I seek out. It’s a little out of the way of the main tourist spots, but they are worth a trip for serious beer travelers, and a definite recommendation for people passing through the area. The locals have a good thing in Four Stacks and it’s places like these that I’m certain will last.