Recently, some fellow Aleheads and I, including Mrs. Sixpack and Herr Hordeum, found ourselves in the Tampa area, and went on a short quest to seek out Evander Preston, the “beloved mad genius of Pass-a-Grille”. “He demands the best,” his website trumpets, “with his unique touch in everything, his rugged gold jewelry, cool music, wild cooking and eccentric studio. Now he has his own beer, the way Evander likes to drink it every day.” Minor writing style qualms aside, we were intrigued. This was a man who had a tasting room adjacent to his jewelry studio, for crying out loud—a jewelry studio where he made solid-gold mousetraps and jewel-encrusted bubble blowers. This was a man so iconic, he had “[a] wicked good Florida Pilsner for Bohemians and beach bums alike,” brewed with his name and likeness right on the bottle, a pop-eyed Wildman demigod. We had to try it.
When we arrived at the studio, there were giant sculpted metal houseflies climbing up the wall in the parking lot. There was the solid gold mousetrap in a glass case in the window. Clearly we were in the right place. We rang the bell (no eyebrows raised at this point—Evander has to protect his mousetrap, after all), and were greeted by a flock of salespeople in suits flanking the man himself, who peered at us vaguely, and then wandered back off into the recesses of his studio/house/tasting room. The salespeople looked at us for approximately three seconds longer, and then skittered off to their respective stations to commence ignoring us. Apparently we were not “Bohemian” enough for them. Or “beach bum” enough. Surely that was it. We looked around the showroom—something seemed amiss. It was decorated in what would best be described as “postmodern Boho constructivism” or “we wanted it to look like we dumpster-dove a remodeling House of Blues, but we would NEVER actually be caught near a dumpster.” There were likenesses of Evander everywhere, including a six foot oil painting and a life-like wax sculpture stationed in the middle of the room in a Model T Ford bedecked in the style of a New Orleans jazz funeral. There were dried up nouveaux-riches buying hideous silver pimp-crosses. There were t-shirts. We had been had, sucked in by yet another tourist trap in that great state of Florida, belovedly monickered “America’s Wang”.
Mrs. Sixpack had the audacity to ask a saleswoman behind the counter where the tasting room was. The woman made a face like Mrs. Sixpack had come in barefoot in a bikini top and asked to make her a Hurricane. “I’ll have to ask XXXXX,” the saleswoman said, “he’s the one that handles the beer.” She said “beer” like the world tasted bad. She zipped off to the other wing of the showroom, where she apparently thought we couldn’t see that she just waited there for five seconds, then went back to fawning over the customers with fat wallets and designer jeans. Needless to say, we left soon after that, throats dry and Bolshevik yearnings rising.
Long story short:
If you want to see 5 examples of fun, original craftsmanship hidden in a classic Florida tourist trap, go to the Evander Preston gallery.
If you want to drink beer, go to the Cigar City brewery.