You’ll have to excuse us for not leaping with excitement when Gainesville House of Beer opened its doors. It is so close to Stubbies & Steins that any superbly drunk but dedicated beer lover could stumble from Stubbies to GHOB and find it on the first try. That, and it is one in a chain of several. A chain?
But we are ever ready to do our duty to you, our readers, and the beer culture of Gainesville. So after dining at Las Margaritas with friends the other night, we buttoned our lips at the suggestion of heading downtown for a drink at House of Beer. Yes, we would go and see what it was like. We actually enjoyed these friends’ company and could suck it up and try out the new place without acting like pouting children. I said it often while heading across town. Open mind. Open mind. Open mind.
Gainesville House of Beer is on the corner of University and SW 1st, where the burger place was (Jeff’s Deli was there for a while among other things). Down the block is Stubbies, then Sweet Mel’s (and Naughty Mel’s, whatever that mess is). In fact, within easy sober walking distance, there are a significant number of popular drinking establishments like The Top, The Bull, Tall Paul’s, Loosey’s, Palomino, Mainstreet Billiard, Durty Nellie’s, Piano Bar, :08, The Atlantic, University Club, and Stubbies (yes, I mention it again only because it’s a few doors away). Hell, you could even go to The Venue and get a beer if you don’t mind metal detectors at the door. So why would you open a beer place in that exact spot?
Don’t get me wrong. They have 40 taps, plus a decent assortment of miscellaneous bottled beer. The bartender knew his way around the beer, and was more than happy to pour samples and suggest options. The only excuse is that these guys are from the Dunedin/Palm Harbor area. They don’t know the area very well. Gainesville’s House of Beer is the third in the chain, and I can honestly say third time is not the charm because there is no charm in this location.
It’s a storefront box with awkward pillars and an uncomfortable little patio area for smokers. The long bar down the back of the room guards the expansive row of taps. The industrial flooring is as exciting as the Sam’s Club “Pub Style” collection of tables and stools. And the pressed tin beer advertisements seem like they were hung up quickly to cover the walls because the TVs were delivered a few weeks late.
The most annoying thing about the night can’t be directly pointed at GHOB. At least I am hoping it was some overly-excited patron that stuffed the jukebox and treated us to a long series of bad ‘80s music. No, I agree there is good ‘80s music. But this was the stuff that you find only in the bottom of the box of Salvation Army’s Vat O’ Dusty Cassettes. As in, why would you offer this on your juke box unless you hated your staff and patrons?
This will be the end of my rant about the lack of personality of the establishment. If I wanted to go to this kind of bar, I would visit one of those gargantuan outlet centers in Georgia and find where all of the soul-drained employees went during their lunch breaks to top off their buzz. But I like my bars to have a little personality. I spend a good deal of time there after all. And the downtown is rampant with interesting places to park your arse and waste a few hours with friends.
On the plus side, GHOB does have a good selection on tap. This is not an argument. They have Victory, Bell’s, Southern Tier, Chimay, Boddington’s, Swamp Head, Rogue, Shipyard, Abita, Red Brick, Cigar City, Woodchuck, Sam Adams, Left Hand, Sweetwater, Dogfish Head, Ace, and more. And they even have fancy glasses to serve the different types of beer (and cider) in.
They do have big name beer like Bud Light, Miller Light, PBR, and Corona, so if you have those friends that can’t tolerate their beer with flavor, you’re free to bring them with you if you like. And GHOB has wine, cider, and lambics for those that are less than excited about beer. You can download the PDF of their bottle and wine selection if you like (you should know by now how much I hate this lazy way of displaying a menu online, so their terrible website was another nail in the coffin).
If you’re waiting to get into Stubbies, you could have a beer at GHOB and watch TV while someone holds your place in line. We went on a Friday night and it wasn’t busy at all. The girl on the door was writing a paper for school and watching the crowd across the street at The Bank or whatever it’s called this week.
House of Beer wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just not a place we wanted to spend a lot of time. We all had a drink and tried to settle before giving up and continuing on to another drinking establishment. It might someday develop character. We might even go back. Maybe.
Gainesville House of Beer
19 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
Saturday & Sunday 12PM-2AM