My Favorite Places – Willard’s Tap House
Seven days left until Tampa Bay Beer Week. Craft beer bars are popping up all over the country and the general populace becomes more aware of the quality and availability of good brews. For a very long time, residents of and visitors to Pinellas County had few choices when it came to bars with good beer. There were a few restaurants that had a good selection, and one or two bars, but the vast majority were mostly stocked with expensive imports. While there are some truly excellent import beers, many of us tend to lean towards American craft beers in our preferences. In 2010, Blaine and Chrissy Smith opened Willard’s Tap House in Largo, and gave beer lovers a reason to rejoice.
With forty taps and a “no crap on tap” policy, Tampa Bay craft beer lovers had a new place to get their fix for excellent libations. As most tap houses do, Willard’s rotates different beers as kegs blow and new ones come in, so the offerings will differ slightly from visit to visit, and that’s a good thing as far as most beer lovers are concerned. It also can make for irritation when the day AFTER you visit, the keg of Hopslam gets tapped.
In all fairness – and as a demonstration of excellent customer service – Blaine did email me as soon as he tapped the keg. Very classy and definitely appreciated, even though I was not able to make it up there before it was gone. Both Blaine and his wife were very gracious hosts when I visited, and it is apparent they love what they are doing.
Both Florida natives, Blaine and Chrissy left careers in other fields to follow Blaine’s dream of opening and running a craft beer tap house. He worked in commercial refrigeration for several years, but as the economy took a turn for the worse he found himself on the road far more than he liked. Trips to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale (a good four to five hour drive each way) became more of the rule than the exception, and finally he knew it was time. His knowledge of refrigeration systems has certainly helped in his new venture, and he still maintains a good relationship with his former employer. Chrissy left a career in real estate to help Blaine with the new venture, also driven by the downturn in the housing market. As Blaine plainly put it “I am just really lucky I married a woman that loves beer!”
Willard’s is a neighborhood craft beer bar, first and foremost. They do serve light snacks and such (food can be brought in or ordered from one of the local places), and have a couple flat screen TV on one wall with sporting events being shown, but the central focus is on the beer. A blackboard with all the current offerings for all to see, and the music in the background is just that: in the background. Conversation is easy, either with other patrons or with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Beer prices are very reasonable, and a personal plus is that it is a non-smoking establishment.
During Tampa Bay Beer Week, Willard’s is celebrating the local craft beer scene in Florida by running every tap in the place with local Florida brews. Think that you have tried every Florida beer? Come by and find out.