In the words of Jack Nicholson, “Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.” The owners of Tap & Cork agree. Their haven for beer mavens boasts 20 taps of draft microbrews and more than 20 bottled craft beers. No food or hard liquor, but there is live music on Friday nights, bar bingo, trivia nights and karaoke. As the “Cork” in the name implies, they even cater to oenophiles. Get ready to get happy at 3 p.m.—that’s when happy hour starts. 101 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-2337.
The vibe at BrewBurgers is family-friendly and retro chic. But the futuristic tap system keeps beers at an ice-cold 30 degrees. Want a sizzling burger with your brew? Try the Ollie G. Burger, named after owner Michael Bacon’s son Oliver. Blackened with Cajun seasoning and chipotle dressing, it’s adorned with olive tapenade, creamy brie and bacon. The Bacon behind the bar says, “Bring Aunt Harriet, the dog, and your appetite and we’ll bring it on.” 525 Tamiami Trail S., Venice, (941) 786-3341; 370 Commercial Court, Venice, (941) 484-2337.
With front row seats on Venice Avenue, T.J. Carney’s Pub and Grille is the destination to sit, sip, and watch the world pass by. A dozen or so beers on tap, a wine list and abundant comfort food—including pork tacos. (Legend has it they go through 400 pounds of America’s favorite white meat every week.) Accompanying the bites and brew: karaoke, dance parties and live entertainment, with a strong selection of Irish music. 231 W. Venice Ave., (941) 480-9244.
The IceHouse Pub is an authentic English pub offering 34 taps of the world’s finest lagers, stouts and ales. The menu boasts bangers and mash, cottage pie and ale-battered fish and chips. When they’re not knocking back a pint, regulars enjoy spirited competition on 10 regulation dartboards, and less pointy games like billiards, snooker and dominoes. You’ll find the pub in a restored, historic icehouse—how cool is that? 408 Tamiami Trail N., Punta Gorda, (941) 575-0866.
Happy hour at Lock ’N Key Restaurant & Pub is “happier than most places,” according to owners Rocket and Sue Atamanchuk. The reasons? It’s steps from the beach, happy hour starts at 11 a.m., and every drink order is a game of chance. You get a card with five hidden price options (half-price, 50 cents and full price). Make a choice, pull the tab, and you could be a winner. Dine on wings and prime rib sandwiches or oysters on the half-shell. 2045 N. Beach Road, Englewood, (941) 474-1517.
Perched on Lemon Bay, the Lighthouse Grill at Stump Pass offers a blissful view of Florida’s flora and fauna. Along with the usual domestic and imported suspects, the beer selection includes 13 seasonal crafts. Craft cocktails and wine, too. Drink up, but leave room for grub; the house-made gumbo is stuffed with fresh seafood, and their smokehouse serves fine ribs, fish and chicken. Live music Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 260 Maryland Ave., Englewood, (941) 828-1368.
White Elephant Pub is nestled in the deepwater harbor of Chadwick’s Cove, and the ambiance is pure old Florida, serving drinks leaning toward frozen and tropical, with names like Red Tide Margarita and Manasota Mind Eraser. Bar bites include ribs, wings, burgers, fried chicken and the classic grouper sandwich. If you really want to shiver your timbers, there’s live music and dancing most days and nights of the week. 1855 Gulf Blvd., Englewood, (941) 475-6801.
For an authentic Irish pub experience, try Punta Gorda’s Celtic Ray Public House. Their selection of draft and bottled brews hails from Brooklyn to Belgium, with some local microbrews thrown in. The menu is an honor roll of Irish pub staples, including Scotch egg, sausage roll, stuffed cabbage and, of course, fish and chips. Diversions include live music, darts and trivia nights—but no TV. Ever. As owner Kevin Doyle puts it, “Music, conversation and laughter should be all you need.” 145 E. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda, (941) 916-9115.