Night Watch: Big Bear Brewing Co.
Night Watch is a regular feature about bars and clubs by nightlife
columnist Tara Nieuwesteeg.
Big Bear Brewing Company
1800 University Drive, Coral Springs
Call 954-341-5545, or visit here.
The first thing you see upon entering Big Bear Brewing Co. is a giant
picture of a black bear, just above the hostess station. Though my
experience with bears is limited to inebriated moments I spent with a
high school friend who was infamous for getting shitfaced and referring
to himself as "Bear" (in the third person), I think they are incredibly
beautiful animals who should be left in peace (I was anticipating
stuffed hunting trophies, but was delighted to not find any at Big
Bear. More on this later). The low lighting, brick walls, old photos
and pictures of two things (bears and beers), along with rustic
furniture, made the whole place very reminiscent of a Colorado ski
lodge. We chose a booth with a good view of the giant, old-style brew
tanks - numbered things like "serving vessel #4" and complete with
valves, meters, and pipes, like some kind of shiny, silver time
We wasted no time grabbing menus, skimming over tons of starters, salads, specials, sandwiches, and steaks, and locating the drink selection as quickly as possible. Big Bear boasts an expansive wine selection, several handcrafted fruity martini, margarita, and mojito concoctions, and even "Big Foot" drinks (46 ounces of margarita for $15? I dare you). But of course, that's not what we came for. Instead of the usual watered-down beer you buy in buckets at your local dive, Big Bear only serves its hand-brewed pure-liquid-gold stouts and ales (the walls of Big Bear are also decorated with the shit-ton of awards the brewmaster has won). Regularly on tap, you'll find Kodiac Belgian Dubbel, Hibernation Pale Ale, Brown Bear Ale, Grizzly Red Ale, and Polar Light (sensing a theme yet?). We opted for Witness, one of three seasonal brews (also on the list were Mocha Stout and Peach Ale). It came refreshing, heady, and delicious.
Three big sips of that stuff had me buzzin', so I stalked over to harass the gorgeous blond bartender, Kim. She had bright blue eyes and her top revealed just the perfect amount of cleavage - that is, more than a nun but less than fetish icon Rubber Doll.
"We change out our seasonal beers once every two months or so - we always keep a fruit ale on tap," she told me.
"We've been here 13 years, this July."
"Wow," I said. "What are all these mugs?" I pointed to a bunch of mugs hanging just over the bar.
"The mug club!" she said. "We have a waiting list. In fact, why don't you talk to Greg."
She pointed at a guy who was standing right behind me.
"Gregorio," the owner said, introducing himself politely.
"I was busy hitting on your bartender," I said. "You could have let me finish first. But now that you're here, tell me: Who likes bears?"
"I do," said Greg. He was tall and stately, with a calm voice and cool demeanor. "My bar before this was called G.W. Sharkey's. I learned that people were catching sharks, cutting their fins off, and throwing them back. I wanted to raise awareness, so I incorporated their plight into my bar."
"Cutting their fins off?" My buzz dissipated immediately.
"So, when I heard that black bears in Florida - having their habitats destroyed and don't have anywhere to go. One in Palm Beach recently got shot and killed. But he didn't mean any harm, he was just scared and lost ..."
I wanted to cry.
Instead I ordered a delicious veggie pizza (really, it was good) which cheered me, but only just slightly.
Soon after that, I chatted up two regulars, hoping to reinstate my buzz.
Kevin wore an earring, and Jim was bald with blue eyes. Jim sipped his dark stout from a regular's mug. ("I was on a waiting list for months before I got it," he said.)
"This guy never had real beer before he came here," Jim jabbed a finger at Kevin.
"I drank Coronas," Kevin shrugged. "But then I came here and I was like ... this... this is beer? It was amazing."
"This is what beer should taste like," said Jim. "The food is good, too. Oh my god, I've never been somewhere with good food and house-brewed beer like this."
"So, no complaints, then?" I said sarcastically. I already loved Big Bear. I knew I'd be back.
"Well, one," said Jim with a smile. "You know how they have seasonal beer? Well, I wish they served their double IPA year-round!"
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