I just returned from a beer- drinking fest in Asheville, NC. A group of 6 of us, all returning to Asheville for at least the second time, dropped in on a dozen breweries and sampled their fare. The thing about Asheville is that there is no “recipe” for a brewery. Each locale presented itself on its own terms. Some, like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, were styled like wineries: complete with gift shops and tasting rooms, with gourmet food to rival the best local restaurants (Sierra Nevada) and an architecture/patio to match the most stylized, yet minimalistic designs (New Belgium).

Others were way more casual and by that I mean, T shirt and flip flops only! This included High Wire and The Wedge. You were there to drink and hang with your posse. And in the balance, Twin Leaf and Wicked Weed, with ambiance and/or self-made entertainment provided by Jenga, ping pong, and table shuffleboard games in abundance.

Sometimes bad weather is a mixed blessing and it was for us last weekend. There was a narrow window to squeeze in a Hike to Triple Falls and Hooker Falls in the DuPont Forest on Saturday. By 4 pm, we were posted up at our new favorite watering hole, Twin Leaf, for the evening. Twin Leaf dedicated about 25% of its floor space to games: foosball, Jenga, ping pong and table shuffleboard. I was elated to find the tables open. Let the games begin!

Truth be told, my brother and I were fierce ping pong competitors. We had a table in our NY home basement for years. In spite of its warping, badly, we made the most of it, especially during the cold winter months. I earned my stripes during those months. I did not know that playing ping pong was like riding a bike: it all comes back to you.

One day, my fiancé Jim and I were at Rapp Brewery in Largo, and I spied a ping pong table. After Jim beat me the first game, he switched hands and played lefty, all the while sipping on a dark beer. He trounced me, which set up for a rematch, held in front of friends and family, over the Christmas holidays. Guess who came out on top? It was a fine moment for me, though not often repeated.

We played again at Twin Leaf, ping pong, Jenga and table shuffleboard. Having games in house is a wise strategy as we sipped beers and ciders all rainy afternoon, while playing one game after another. Jim is back as the family champion!

Here in town, we make a visit to a brewery a regular component to a night out. We find ourselves often visiting Coppertail, a fine redevelopment of an ugly warehouse building on the outskirts of Ybor City. It has great beers, a fun tour and a confessional in house, should you have the urge. And, it’s close to Davis Island where I live.

When we are in St. Pete, we are regulars at Three Daughters, as they have two ping pong tables, and my favorite game, Pictionary. Plus they have live music! Great ambiance and food trucks.
We drop in at 7th Sun in Dunedin, a very casual, small brewery with tables and a covered picnic table outside. Jim lives up the road from 7th Sun!

Here in Tampa, our city is becoming better known for its Brewery culture. While not fully on the same playing field as Asheville, I suggest that Tampa is fast approaching that caliber, ranging from gritty, no frills breweries to fancier, designed environments right here at home. Go out and sample some of the Bay Area’s finest brews and let me know which one you like best.