The modern craft beer consumer is a moving target – one that is constantly evolving with changing tastes to match. As a beer-focused bar, is it possible to have too many pastry stouts? Not enough hazy IPAs? Should you have a beer for the pilsner purist as well as everyone who wants the latest kettle-soured fruit bomb or mead?
Sarasota’s 99 Bottles has found the nexus between all of these worlds and has created a haven where all beer styles are appreciated.
Owned by veteran publican Mark Tuchman, 99 Bottles puts its beer credibility out for all drinkers to see, ever-present on the walls. In fact, all of the walls of 99 Bottles have liquid artwork, but well, there are 99 pieces of art to choose from.
What sets 99 Bottles apart more than anything is the attention to detail Mark and his team have put into the experience at 99 Bottles. You may recognize the name, as Mark brought Mr. Beery’s to Sarasota years ago before there was local beer available to go. Mark’s vision for his newest spot is to let the beer, the service, and the details do the talking. 99 Bottles is “the culmination of my experience from a craft beer perspective,” Mark says. “From my experiences both as a craft beer business owner and also my likes and dislikes as a consumer combined with some things that aren’t my gig, but I hope they resonate with the current craft beer consumer.
What to expect at 99 Bottles.
Curated Tap Lists. Tuchman orders each keg to fill a spot on the tap list. Every beer on draft has a role in the theater of beer. There will always be hazy IPAs and fruited sours, but rather than give the entire spotlight to the newest sours or the latest craze, Mark allots a spot for the craft beers that taught everyone about craft beer, whether it’s Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale right next to Toppling Goliath’s King Sue or St. Bernardus Abt. 12 next to Untiltled Art’s Double Strawberry Smoothie or EKU Pils, each beer has a fan base and a part to play.
Special days for special beers and New York bagels. Every weekday has a theme or a special for a certain type of beer. Tuesdays are gueuze days with specials on sour beer. Thursdays are fernprost with specials on German lagers, pilsners, kolsches, and hefeweizens. Sundays are rosé all day. And every weekend features a bagel brunch with the main food attraction flown in from the Empire State and made ready in the 99 Bottles kitchen.
Carefully Chosen Bottle Selection. The bottles and cans that go on the wall are not only for sale, but they make up almost the entire wall. The 99 Bottles crew has given beer geek love to the wall of many bottles, too. The vast majority of these beers are malty beers that will be fine or better than fine with age to them. Think stouts, imperial porters, Belgians, and many high-gravity beers. Only a handful of these beers are hoppy beers that need to be consumed fresh – those beers are mostly on tap and available to go.
A Love for Local. 99 Bottles features breweries and eateries with local followings to take over their kitchen or taps. Breweries like Orlando’s Sideward Brewing, Tampa’s Double Branch Artisan Ales, or Jupiter’s Civil Society Brewing are no strangers to the taps or can list. Kitchen takeovers happen regularly from chefs who can use the small kitchen at 99 to prep some amazing food or give a preview of their restaurants or concepts.
Doubling Down on Growlers. 99 Bottles staff doubled down on growlers and crowlers to encourage the drinking public to consume beer as fresh as possible and also to encourage drinking the best draft beer. Whether you think the ideal growler should look like your dad’s work Thermos or a draft handle complete with CO2 to serve beer directly from the vessel, there is a growler for every interest and budget level and plenty of beer to fill it.
Where a rare experience happens every day. Mark has built a team of beer lovers – they search out sought-after beers to bring to the taps and bottle list for all to experience. It is not uncommon to find beer from Minnesota’s Surly Brewing, Colorado’s Black Project Spontaneous Ales, or Tennessee’s Southern Grist Brewing – Mark seeks out the one-time and limited bottle and can drops for brands like this. They don’t happen often, and Mark is ready when they do. When walking by the shelves in 99 Bottles, always walk slowly because there is undoubtedly a gem or three waiting for a good home.
Don’t resist the machine. Remember when enjoying a great beer might mean having to buy 25 ounces to share between multiple friends all at the same time? Or having to drink the whole bottle solo or over two consecutive days before the bottle went flat? No more. Mark has developed a machine that keeps beer in large bottles carbonated so now the beer enthusiast can enjoy small pours and single pours from an exceptional bottle without having to break the bank or the stomach. 99 Bottles’s machine can pour from these large-format bottles while keeping them fresh and carbonated for the next drinker. Brooklyn Black Ops? Have a 5-ounce pour. Want to try the Funk Factory Cherry Meertz? 5 ounces or 10? Done. Want to share with your best friend? Pay for a small pour and return or try something else with no obligation to finish the bottle.
Beer. Bar. and Beyond. Wine. Food bites. Scenery. The interior of 99 Bottles bursts with details to entertain the eye and the mind. 99 Bottles caters to more than
craft beer (although beer is clearly the fortunate son): wines also reside here – not an extensive wine list but one chosen with the same discerning palate as the beer list. The snacks have all been tested by discerning food palates and passed muster. The scenery has more to be seen than a passing glance reveals. The glassware at the bar has been chosen based on its ability to accentuate the nuances of each beer’s style while not detracting from the overall aesthetic. On the far wall, “The Captain” keeps drinkers company. This mural designed and painted by local artist Will Ralston is meant to depict a well-traveled elder who tells the best bar stories. As for the art – well, look at the name of the place and tell for ourself. Every detail that affects the beer has been seen to and every nuance that affects the experience has been considered with the beer and wine lover in mind.
The only thing left to do is experience for yourself what Mark means when he says that 99 Bottles is a company of “advocates and merchants of extraordinary liquids.”
Orginally Posted on Southern Brew News | June/July 2021 Edition