A Worthy Stairway

A call to come to Tampa Bay to judge rums is not a call to be ignored, and so yesterday morning I boarded a southbound flight that brought me, after a lengthy wait at Budget Rent-a-Car and a 90 or so minute drive, to Sarasota. The rum could wait until the morrow; last night was for beer!

More specifically, it was for beer at the six week old Stairway to Belgium bar and restaurant in downtown Sarasota. Opened by Philadelphia lawyer turned Sarasota restaurateur Jim Keaveney, Stairway is an obvious labor of love with a mission of bringing quality beer to an area not necessarily known for it. (I was told that I missed the main thrust of Spring Break by a week, but its memory remains.) And here’s the good news: it’s a mission that largely works!

According to Jim, getting the region’s beer distributors on board has not been a uniformly easy task, but he’s been successful enough that the beer list will not disappoint any devotee. Neither will the menu, I might add, with its excellent waterzooi, delicious rabbit stew and flavourful but a bit too stew-like carbonade. (I had a sampler of the three, organized for me by Jim but I strongly suspect about to join the regular menu.) Washed down with a selection of beers ranging from St. Somewhere’s rather unconventional “saison,” Lectio Divina, to good old reliable St. Bernardus Abt 12, it was indeed aa very pleasant way to spend the night, an opinion obviously shared by the dozens of people who flooded the place round about 10:00.

Maybe not quite Belgium, but as close as you’re going to get to it on the Florida panhandle.

6 Replies to “A Worthy Stairway”

  1. Ahhh the good old Tampa Bay. Spent an interesting 3 months there while I was in Florida “limbo.” Unfortunately, I never made it to Sarasota and Stairway to Belgium. But, I was in Tampa when Cigar City started. And they are doing great things, with more to come. Florida does have a few gems, although they are few and far between.


  2. It would have been exceedingly hard for you to make it to Stairway back then, Ashley, since the place only opened a couple of months ago. First line, second paragraph…

    I stopped in at Cigar City on the way to the airport yesterday. More on that later.

  3. Visited the Stairway Saturday with friends. Good beer. The food was very disappointing. Mussels chewy and not very tasty and the Flemish Stew meat was gristly and the stew far from authentic. We won’t go back to eat.

    1. No excuse for chewy mussels or gristly beef, Janet. I’ll make sure that management see your comments and will check in on the situation. Could have just been an off day, though…

  4. Beer selection was absolutely amazing – so was the actual beer! Wish they had more draft selections. Food wasn’t that bad. Not a primary eating joint, but will be back for the beer!

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