It seems safe to say that beer is often viewed as a means to an end. We drink it because of how we feel if we drink enough of it. And, theoretically, the bar is the place where folks intent on achieving the liberated feeling of drunkenness, to gather and mingle in a more relaxed fashion than they do in the everyday, sober world.
In reality, this ideal often collapses into aggressive scenarios like bar fights and unwelcome sexual advances, which are both shitty ways of socializing. Also, though, if we are simply sipping to up our BAC, then we are likely missing out on the enjoyment of the sips themselves.
A year ago, in the midst of swelling cultural interest in artisan beers, a few local dudes established a spot where the sip itself is the central point. At Laser Wolf, Fort Lauderdale's only bar dedicated entirely to craft beers, the goodness of beer is honored and celebrated.
The careful attention of many folks up the chain -- from the growing of the hops to the good pour in the right glass -- makes craft beer a catalyst for a different sort of experience than typically comes along with a Miller Light.
Ahead of Laser Wolf's one-year anniversary party this Saturday, which will feature DJs and other goodies, County Grind sat at the bar and enjoyed many delicious sips of beer and a conversation with Chris Bellus about the virtues of the bar's beer-central attitude. Bellus is co-owner along with his brother Jordan and friend Pat Rothblatt.
More often than not, someone looking for a good conversation at Laser Wolf will find one. There seems to be something about the mindful approach to drinking the beer -- tasting sip, by sip, by sip -- that sets a calm, relaxed mood for the environment as a whole, making it conducive to meaningful interaction among those sipping within it. In other words, people tend to pay attention to one another, as they are already in the habit of paying attention to their beer. So lots of new friendships have been formed over the past year. For Bellus and many of his patrons, this has been the best part.
In addition to meeting scores of bar-going locals whom he had somehow not come across in his years hanging around the art, music, and surf scenes in South Florida, Bellus has formed relationships in the broader world of craft beer. "It's a community," he says. "It's really easy to connect with people who are doing similar things."
The bar has been a magnet for those already hooked on skillfully brewed hops and malts. Also, though, it has been a gateway for the previously uninitiated. Bellus has enjoyed seeing friends grow braver with their selections as the year has gone on. He is especially delighted with one drinker's progression from Budweiser to double IPAs.
Of course, not everyone is ready to take the plunge from fizzy piss to flavorful brew. Though Bellus has become skilled at choosing intro beers for people based on the kind of mainstream beer that they typically drink, some people just aren't into it, and that's OK with him. "It's not for everyone," he says. "I don't want you to sit here and be miserable and drink awesome beer."
Fortunately for Laser Wolf and the craft beer world at large, more and more people are discovering that it is for them. "I'd love to see Sam Adams take over where Budweiser is at," he says. Even if that may be a ways off, the scene seems to be growing one sip and one brewer at a time. Bellus says that he has met at least a dozen folks who are brewing their own beer.
Of the established breweries of which he has become familiar, the Florida-based breweries like Cigar City, Holy Mackerel, Tequesta, and Native have made him the proudest. He says that the beer they are creating is on par with offerings from better-known makers like Dogfish Head. There are usually at least one or two Florida beers occupying a place on the draft list.
From his first taste of 11 Brown Ale at the Poorhouse five or so years back to becoming an established member of the craft beer community, Bellus gets a good feeling from holding the space for people to sit, sip, relax, and enjoy one another and those tasty beers. And the flow of suds and friendships is showing no signs of running dry.
"I don't know why people would stop liking good beer," he says. That seems like a safe bet. And so we can look forward to many more tasty moments beyond this one-year milestone.
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Laser Wolf One Year Anniversary Party. 6 p.m. Saturday, February 11, at Laser Wolf, 901 Progresso Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free. Click here.