Sitting down to enjoy an ice cold beer in a chilled glass is about as good as it gets on a steamy Florida evening. Add a very upscale lounge with dark accented furniture and subdued lighting, some tapas-style appetizer choices and a broad list of hard-to-find craft beers and you have an experience that mimics some of the best craft beer and wine clubs in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Pete.
Best of all, you don't need to drive outside of the county to discover why craft beer lounges are becoming so popular.
Evom Lounge, located in the Silverhtorn Shopping Center on Powell Road, opened in October with a fresh new approach to the traditional adult nightclub scene. Originally the Wine Toad, Evom became the kind of place new owner Keith Rainville wanted to take his wife on date night.
"There weren't a lot of nice clubs available where customers could feel comfortable," Rainville said.
He revamped the entire club and transformed it into a cozy, more upscale lounge that offered a selection of more than 100 craft beers and wines. Evom also has a full liquor selection and recently added a menu of appetizers.
"But we specialize in craft beers," Rainville said.
He recently expanded Evom to include a full liquor store, Beer Frog, which focuses on one of the largest selections of craft beers in the tri-county area. Beer Frog is located next door to Evom and can be accessed from inside the lounge.
"We have some unique things that other liquor lounges in the area don't have," Rainville said. For instance, Beer Frog has a "kegolator" with a full tap for sampling featured beers. Customers can taste up to four chosen brands each month before they make their purchase.
"The customers can actually come in and sample those beers. And if they like them, they can take them home."
They also have computers on the counter, with which customers can search the ratings of beers sold in the store.
Beer Frog boasts as many as 1,200 different varieties of craft beers at any time inside the store.
The store is divided into sections featuring beers from specific regions of the United States and around the world. Of course they have a distinct Florida selection and feature wines from a local vineyard, Strong Tower Winery, for customers to sample.
"Craft beer is a market that is here to stay," explained Rainville. "It is not a niche market anymore. People are actually looking for quality. The customer is more educated about the types of beers available and want to try different regions of styles.
"They are looking for more quality than volume," said manager Wayne Thornton, who runs both locations.
Dynamics of beer drinking have changed, added Rainville. Where beer was once stereotyped as the least expensive alcohol choice, it is no longer the case. Quality and alcohol content must meet the demands of the new, more savvy beer consumer.
"We've got some craft beers with alcohol content of 12 percent," Rainville said. "That's equivalent to a mixed drink."
Rainville's decision to open Evom and Beer Frog came from a need to provide an alternative to traditional nightlife in the county. And since opening the adjoined businesses, his dream has proven to be a viable reality.
An added bonus? Customers can customize their own six-packs, choosing different beer brands.
"How many times do you purchase a type of beer that you don't like?" Rainville said. "This way, you don't have to waste the purchase."
Craft beers have become a popular trend for beer connoisseurs, offering different tastes from different regions of the country and the world. "There are tens of thousands of craft beers in the industry," Rianville said. "Only certain areas can get certain product. We try to get all of the product that our venders offer so we can make it a one-stop shop."
Evom also serves around 100 different craft beers, along with several signature wine choices and a full liquor menu. The idea for Evom, Rainville added, was to provide an environment that was comfortable for everyone.
They provide weekly live entertainment, with occasional special events and seasonal parties. They are currently planning a huge OctoberFest planned for October and are planning expansions of outside seating.
Bottom line? Rainville recognized a need in the county that he was passionate to fill. And since opening Evom and Beer Frog, business has been good.
"We're not trying to be a Beers of the World or a beer garden," Rainville said. Yet they have made a distinct impression on Hernando County that now has options for craft beer enthusiasts. They have been told by several customers that they have the largest selection of beers around. "And that's what we were trying to accomplish."
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org