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The Scenestress: Parties converge on Gecko's Grill and Pub

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I came to Gecko's to taste Sweetwater Brewing's tap takeover, while Tom and Susan Hicks dropped by during a spirited White Christmas pub crawl.

I came to Gecko's to taste Sweetwater Brewing's tap takeover, while Tom and Susan Hicks dropped by during a spirited White Christmas pub crawl.

I have a soft spot for Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewing Company with its slightly punk attitude, pithy sense of humor and supremely drinkable variety of craft brews. I share this with Fiona Farrell, Beverage Director and Bar Manager at Gecko's Grill and Pub (1900 Hillview St., Sarasota)  in Southside Village. Last Thursday, Fiona brought in a long list from Sweetwater's year-round menu and refreshing summer line of beer to stage a "tap takeover."

I was cruising down the sidewalk to the pub when I passed an unusual sight: Two women, dressed in crisp white slacks, white blouses and gold lamé reindeer antlers, walked arm-in-arm, giggling into white plastic cups. I scratched my head for a second, but no longer  ... Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale was already pulling me inside.

Gecko's bar area was swarming with beer fanatics. Toward the back I found a half-dozen of my friends sitting at a long, high-topped table, each with their own trout-shaped flight paddles laid out before them. I didn't want to be left out. My little glasses of 420 and the IPA were drained in a flash, but I took time to savor the light-bodied Blue -- a quintessential summer beer, we all agreed, that practically begged to go on a picnic -- and finished with the rich, chocolatey Georgia Brown.

Partying down with a Sweetwater sampler paddle.

Partying down with a Sweetwater sampler paddle.

Todd Underhill (L) and Justin Bloom (R) fully support drinking good beer for a good cause.

Todd Underhill (L) and Justin Bloom (R) fully support drinking good beer for a good cause.

Once we'd finished the flight, we each ordered a full pint of our favorite. I spotted another table full of fellow live music lovers and show hounds -- apparently a lot of my buddies are also big on Sweetwater -- and I dropped by to see what they were drinking. They were raving over the Waterkeeper Hefeweizen, a product of Sweetwater's partnership with the national Waterkeeper Alliance. The partnership expanded this year to benefit about 35 programs throughout the Southeast, raising funds to support the Waterkeeper Alliance's efforts to keep the nation's waterways clean. I thought that was a pretty rad way to give back (after all, you can't make tasty beer without clean water) as I shook hands with Justin Bloom, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper -- Sarasota's big kahuna of waterkeeping himself! I felt honored to clink his glass.

Back at my table, fresh glasses of beer were starting to sweat and a big plate of hummus and fresh veggies had taken center stage. As we munched and crunched on carrot sticks and cucumber slices, I noticed something strange going on in the corner of my eye. The already busy bar was now overflowing with a sea of white, punctuated by red and green beads, more shiny antlers and Santa hats. Mr. and Mrs. Claus appeared at the front of the pub, decked out from head to toe in crushed red velvet. The tap takeover had been taken over by a White Christmas pub crawl!

Now the flowing booze was doing good deeds on double fronts, benefiting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer as well as the Waterkeeper Alliance's mission to keep our bays and rivers pristine. Gecko's is a mighty large establishment, but I couldn't even see an empty table in the dining hall. The sound of the combined revelers rose to a merry cacophony while my friends and I raised our glasses to "giving of our livers."

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Last modified: November 15, 2013
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