Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mad Beach Craft Brewing, Madeira Beach, FL

Ordinarily, the only thing that appeals to me less than wading through the slow-moving human wall of tourons and navigating the painful pay-station parking in John's Pass Village is being chained up in a Super Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Still, I have occasionally made the sacrifice to get my fix of smoked fish spread at Waltz Fish Shak or a lobster roll at The Boardwalk Grill. I don’t know whether to be thrilled or agonized by the fact that I now have added incentive to do so.

Mad Beach Brewing Company opened in October of 2014 as a taphouse only, featuring an eclectic selection of house-brewed craft beers, ales, ciders and local wine. In late December of 2015, it morphed into full-blown brew pub with the addition of chef Tyson Williams, formerly of the Baystar Restaurant Group.

The venue is cavernous, boisterous and industrial-chic, with miles of stainless bars, long communal tables and four-tops. This is not a romantic date-night destination or a place to rendezvous for serious conversation. With its multiple jumbo flat screen TVs, pool tables, air hockey, dart boards, corn-hole, giant Jenga, live music and more going on, it’s a veritable Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups where the “littles” are also welcome (a kids’ menu is available). Being a restaurant that is both adult-oriented and family-friendly is a fine line to walk, but Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company admirably manages it.

The menu offers Caribbean and southern inspired pub and comfort food classics - beer-infused whenever it makes sense, which is always a good idea as far as I’m concerned. Appetizers include escalated versions of several pub staples like craft beer cheese dip, Buffalo wings, sliders, pulled pork nachos and the particularly hearty and homey Tots Poutine (crunchy, seasoned tots topped with melting cheese curds, house made stout gravy and fried sage).

Sandwiches are lumberjack sized, range in price from $8 burgers to $15 for locally sourced grouper, and are served on sweet Cuban-style coca rolls. My fried grouper selection was a real stunner – what had to be close to 8 ounces of the flaky fish was delicately breaded with a roll in seasoned flour, a dip in buttermilk and light dredge in more flour. Topped with Swiss cheese and nestled atop a bed of arugula and cilantro crema, it was one of the finest I’ve ever wrapped my lips around. Still, it may have been trumped by my better half’s $9 selection of The Beer Belly – house brined roasted pork belly, bacon, arugula, tomato, more of the crema, guava jelly and beer battered onion rings piled onto another of the sweet, pillowy buns. In his words, “the best sandwich ever created by man”, this nefariously decadent beast would be best served with a sidecar of Lipitor. Then, for those who scoff at danger and laugh in the face of arterial plaque, there’s the Jelly Donut Burger – a beef patty sandwiched between two glazed donuts with raspberry jelly, bacon and smoked cheddar. You can’t make this stuff up.

Similarly, the BBQ pulled pork sandwich is worth the calories. Marinated in ale (but, of course!), roasted, shredded into juicy tendrils and tossed in mango-rum-scotch bonnet barbecue sauce, the end result is heaped atop a salted pretzel roll and lavished with sharp cheddar and slaw.

All of this decadence notwithstanding, there are options available for the health conscious. In the interest of journalistic reporting, I sampled the lightest of the four available entrees on my second visit – Square Grouper. Wrapped in parchment and roasted with herbs and veggies, it was cooked to moist perfection. The accompaniment of fluffy green tea infused rice studded with pineapple bits and coconut, redolent with the scent of cilantro and ginger kept me from getting as sulky as I usually do when I try to watch my calories in a restaurant.

Let’s talk sides. Although there are far greater injustices in the universe, chomping into an onion ring and having the not-fully-cooked scalding center slide out and slap me on the chin is one First World Problem that never fails to make me inordinately cranky. Second degree burns need not be feared here, however. Battered in a combo of four ales, Mad Beach’s crunchy O-rings yield easily to the tooth while remaining solidly encased in their crusty exterior.

Southern Style Sweet Potato Casserole will make you wonder how you ever got through life without it. Laced with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and house brewed yam ale, the indulgence factor is ratcheted into to the “OMG You DIDN’T” category by way of pecan praline and toasted marshmallows. Easily doubles as dessert.

One might also consider Fire Roasted Jalapeno Mac & Cheese. It’s ridiculous. Fat, corkscrew pasta noodles slurp up the Mornay sauce they’re lolling in along with bacon and roasted pepper bits. Topped with a bed of cheddar, a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs and a bacon rosette, the result is a study in American pasta sensuality.

And then came Peanut Butter Cup Bread Pudding.

Presenting a surprisingly subtle and adult-like flavor, this dessert combines barley and wheat from the brewhouse mixed with bread chunks, chocolate, peanut butter and cinnamon-vanilla custard. Ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup are all piled atop it, however, lest you forget your inner child. Not a peanut butter fan? Key Lime Crème Brulee and a Toasted Marshmallow Banana Split are also available.

Good times, good beer and good food make me a fan of this Mad Beach fun spot.

Mad Beach Craft Brewing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.

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