Take one down, pass it around at 99 Bottles: Taproom & Bottle Shop
To say it was a different brew scene when Mark Tuchman opened Gulf Gate’s Mr. Beery’s back in 2010, would be putting it mildly. Kick the keg almost a decade later, and today’s most fervent craft beer fans crave to diversify their untapped portfolios of the utmost funky and forward-thinking liquids. “10 years ago, craft beer was super niche. Five years ago, a little less,” he says. “But now it’s resonating with many more consumers and has a space in the market. And finally a space in Sarasota.” Enter 99 Bottles. Not only keeping up with the leading innovators and brew heads, the Taproom & Bottle Shop is staying ahead of the curve. Keeping tabs on the scene since he sold Mr. Beery’s in 2013 has granted owner Mark Tuchman the time to build an arsenal of industry contacts and fine-tune his already-reputable knowledge for craft bevs and bar-opening expertise. The unyielding demand for more stylized bars, offering top-shelf craft brews and exclusive productions, summoned him back into the game. His new 2nd Street jaunt lures in Florida’s ever-growing culture of liquid-loving consumers.
The name 99 Bottles alone piques the attention of those who gravitate to the prospect that a whole lot of drinkable options exist there, and in a place reminiscent of the folk-friendly sing-along chantey of jovial bus rides. Once inside the sharp, snazzy space, a largely inviting mural of a jolly-looking, long-bearded man dubbed “The Captain”—imagined and hand-painted by Oddity tattoo artist William Rost—looks like someone you want to learn more about. But first, coat the stomach before some marathon drinking with elevated bar bites—cultivated by Tuchman’s wife and head chef Christine. The small but mighty menu includes a Bavarian bratwurst, pretzel with jalapeno beer cheese dip and spicy mustard, everything bagel popcorn, seasonal crostinis, a stacked cheese & charcuterie board, key lime poundcake, chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow filling and a mason jar overflowing with warm, mini chocolate chip cookies, served with a shot of milk. Meanwhile, pick the brains of the well-versed, sociable 99 Bottles bartenders—some rocking beards as long as The Captain’s. Utilizing the 5-oz starter pour before jumping the gun for a full size pour is ideal for those with commitment issues, or who want to be gently introduced to a foreign style beer.
Meanwhile, Tuchman hones in on ways to curate the “super unique and interesting” and “hard-to-find items, not being made readily available today.” Everything from online research, traveling, phone calls, emails, meeting with distributors daily and getting the 411 from friends in the industry all go into ensuring 99 Bottles reaps the newest, hottest commodities on the scene. From the acidic, lip-puckering tart profile of a sour ale, infused with the fruit flavors of rainbow sherbet, or the malty-sweet smack of a boozy imperial stout blend, aged on coffee beans in bourbon barrels—an umpteen amount of fluids beg to be admired, then retired. Because nothing good lasts forever 99 Bottles keeps it ever-changing with a rotating selection of 36 drafts, provisioned from around the world. “Once we get done with a keg or two of something, we move on to something new and different to replace it,” Tuchman says. Scoot down a few bar stools and find 30 small-batch produced wines by the glass, as well as nationally-acclaimed ciders, house sparkling cocktail experiences on draft, 221 BC kombuchas and two Out & About cold-brew coffees on tap. And that’s just the bar side of the room.
The bottleshop’s side, coined “The Wall,” demands direct attention. Seriously, no one will issue blame for being a rubbernecker here. Leaving no spatial void left to be filled, the sheer volume of the wall’s grandiose inventory draws spectators in closer—before they even realize the exceptional varieties of each and every bottle or can showcased. The shelves envelop many revered libations, limited releases and small-batch productions from brewers hailed for their ingenuity, consistent quality and singularity. Mixed in is cool 99 Bottles merch, funky apparel, hats, gifts, branded glassware, growlers and crowlers (that can be filled on-site to take home or to a party).
It sparks no surprise that this type of specialty bar concept/retail program—not yet seen in the greater Sarasota area—has inspired a VIP loyalty program. Right from the jump, hardcore craft imbibers wanted in. Upon investing in one of the 30 lockers in the back—coveted from the late Stardust Skate Center—a plethora of perks come with an orange locker key for the year, from a brand T-shirt, hat, pint glass and growler, to various discounts and first-access to special releases on draft throughout the year. But the most exciting has to be the monthly surprise package left inside for them. The staff collaboratively sources “the best, most exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime beers we can find that month.” These VIP picks are not available for sale to the general public. “Whether the consumer is a novice, a fanatic or in between,” says Tuchman, “we have certain aspects of the craft beer world that just weren’t being made available before here.”
Original Post by SRQ Magazine | July 2019