Can you argue with giving people what they want? That’s the theory behind the ever-rotating selection of craft beers, both local and regional, at The Craft Bar.
“The craft beer scene is so vast and ever-changing, it would be silly to have the same kegs over and over again,” says The Craft Bar’s Fontella Hardman. “In fact, the same can be said for people’s palates and seasonal preferences. There are way too many styles and variations of brews to confidently select a few that would truly represent anything or everything that someone could be looking for at any one time. People want to try what’s new, what’s seasonal, and, yes, definitely what’s local.”
Photo Courtesy of The Craft Bar.
The Craft Bar, which opened its doors in 2014, currently has four locations along the Emerald Coast — Destin, Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, 30A in Grayton Beach, and Panama City Beach. Expansion plans are also on tap, as The Craft Bar anticipates opening a location in Pensacola in either 2018 or 2019.
The idea for The Craft Bar came from Owner Chan Cox’s interactions with his staff and younger customers who would come into The Wine Bar. The younger groups of patrons and staff were gaining a larger appreciation for premium spirits, mixology and craft beer.
“He took his restaurant concept from year’s prior and gave it an upgrade, a Wine World twist,” Hardman says. “The hand crafted cocktails would be made with house-made ingredients, and with the best spirits — even our own Wine World Signature Barrels of bourbons and rums. The menu would feature not only interesting pub food, but locally sourced, and always made in a from-scratch kitchen. And of course, the beer selection would be 100 percent craft beer, meaning brewed in a facility that produces less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year.”
Given the focus on craft beer and killer cocktails, you know the menu as to be awesome. The food menu perfectly complements the brews and cocktails.
Hardman says The Craft Bar’s culinary director and chefs take traditional pub fare items and put their own special twist on it, making them a “notch above the norm.” Ingredients are made from scratch and sourced from local and regional purveyors. While the average bar may serve a burger, it’s not a Craft Bar burger.
“At The Craft Bar, not only is the beef grass fed from a local farm, but we have other specialty meats,” Hardman says. “So, for example, a bison burger is 100 percent lean bison meat, ground in-house, hand-pattied into a 1/2 –pound burger, topped with house-made pepperjack cheese and IPA mustard, and served with hand cut fries and house made spicy ketchup.”
For her part, Hardman says Craft Bar’s burgers pair perfectly with a beer or bourbon.
So what makes The Craft Bar unique? Did you know it’s the Emerald Coast’s first true gastropub? Hardman says nobody else was offering what The Craft Bar was when it opened. And while there may be some establishments now offering a similar concept to The Craft Bar, that’s nothing to worry about, as Hardman says they focus more on community than competition.
“Having Wine World as our parent company means we can have any premium spirit on hand to use in cocktails whenever we need,” she says. “What you see behind the bar is just a glimpse of what is right around the corner at our finger tips. The big chains that serve craft beer and have full menus are really no comparison either, especially when it comes to food and cocktail quality. We stay with the trends, we are constantly updating and evolving, and always will be one step ahead in the area.”
With both inside and outside seating, The Craft Bar can accommodate parties both small or large. They also have incredibly welcoming vibes and meticulously planned décor. A visit to The Craft Bar should be an experience, filled with live music that may get louder as the night progresses, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, and an ever-changing list of craft brews and awesome eats.
And if you haven’t been to The Craft Bar before, you are missing out on some great specials. Their happy hour is from 2-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and offers up some $5 deals, with select drinks, beers and snacks. Each location also has their own specials and events taking place. The 30A location always has a live band to pair up with its Sunday brunch, while the Panama City Beach location features a different steak special on Wednesdays that are paired with a discounted signature barrel whiskey. Monday’s are half-priced burgers and locals receive an all-night happy hour on Tuesdays at each location. If you prefer your brews to go, The Craft Bar also offers Crowlers, which you can fill with any beer you choose.
The folks at The Craft Bar are also big supporters of the local community and businesses.
“We are a locally owned business and Chan has always seen the importance of in giving back to the community and businesses that support us,” Hardman says. “Plus, the beer scene is definitely a thing of local pride. We love keeping a good relationship with local or near-local brewers. It’s cool for folks to be able to tell a friend over some beers, ‘yeah, I met the head brewer of this one. The Craft bar had a tap takeover and the owner came by and had a burger and some beer with us. That’s where I got this shirt, too.’”
Each of The Craft Bar’s four locations tailor their hours to their clientele, although they all open daily at 11 a.m. While some locations may close at 11 p.m., others may stay open until 2 a.m. Each location is open seven days a week, so be sure to check out their individual Facebook pages for specific hours.
To learn more about The Craft Bar, visit their website at thecraftbarfl.com/.