The Wild Rover Brewery Provides Authentic English Pub Experience to Westchase
From owner Derek Wells’ brick Inglenook fireplace, the steel tipped dart boards, to the custom craft and cask beer, to the hand-cut and handlain tile logo on the floor when you enter The Wild Rover Brewery, you immediately realized you’ve discovered someplace special.
This is a traditional English Pub nestled off the beaten path in an unassuming warehouse building in Westchase - a short drive behind Dunkin Donuts reveals a step into history.
Sitting in the Snug bar with high back wooden seats, Derek regaled with tales of why things were as they were in The Wild Rover Brewery. In the olden days in England, his extra high-back seating actually served as patron protection. The high backs would prevent a man from being hit on the head from behind, knocked out and press-ganged - brought out to sea to serve for years in the navy or merchant navy.
Same thing went for his pewter mugs with the clear glass bottom. Historically, if a naval officer came in a dropped a coin in your mug, if you drank to the bottom, it was considered that you had accepted the King’s money and were obligated into service. A glass bottom enabled a patron to see this coin.
Besides a traditional mouthwatering English menu, it was these little touches that British expats and Tampa natives alike appreciated most of all.
Before he called Tampa Bay home, Derek managed John Courage Brewery in England and actually met his wife Linda in the same pub. Wild Rover was founded by Derek and his son, Ricky.
When Ricky came home from Stetson University on the weekends, they started by brewing beer in their garage and fell in love with the concept of craft brewing.
After graduating and finding himself unfulfilled, working behind a desk, Ricky decided his heart belonged to craft brewing and opened the pub with his father.
“My son is the Master Brewer and brews all of the beer that we sell here. We also sell some ciders imported from England and have a variety of wines,” he said.
Eventually Derek hopes to add types of liquor and showcase local distilleries’ high-quality malt whiskeys, Irish Whiskeys and Scotches. All cask and tap beers pay homage to classic 60-70s music. Cask beers available include Let it ESB - English Bitter, John Barleywine Must Die - English Barleywine, while on tap is Locomotive Breath - Irish Red, Stairway to Hefe'n - Dry-Hopped Wheat Ale, and Hello, Lexie Lou - American Stout, with many others available.
“All of Ricky’s beers are good, but I tend to drink the dark malty beers. I’m very particular to our cask beers which are the old-fashioned way of serving beer long ago when you had to pull a beer out of a cellar when it was in a barrel (cask) by tradition hand pump,” he said. “We have four beers that we serve with traditional hand pumps which offers less carbonation – the beer conditions within the cask – and it self carbonates in that process. It tends to be less carbonated than traditional keg beers.”
The Wild Rover Brewery features two traditional bars – one family-friendly, the other reserved for adults and a third, a sports bar for monthly Trivia Tuesday, games, and piano-playing as well as a dog friendly outdoor beer garden.
The brewery offers onsite/offsite corporate catering and can host special events like anniversary parties, birthdays, and weddings. There is even a justice of the peace on staff.
Prior to moving to their Westchase location, they were in Odessa for three years with a small brew pub. August 19 marks the pub’s one-year anniversary of expanding to this location.
When they first opened in Odessa, they were the fourth brew pub in Hillsborough County. “We serve predominantly traditional English food, but we do put a somewhat American slant on some of the items like wings – not hot wings- but wings done in sticky stout and wings done in a curry sauce.”
The pub’s most popular menu item is the traditional English fish and chips. “We are told by expat Brits that it’s the best fish and chips this side of the pond. We make our batter and use our beer to make the batter.”
They also serve Shepard’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, Cornish Pasties, Chicken Curry, among other standard English offerings. Desserts include sticky toffee bread pudding served with ice cream, blackberry apple pie, and Banofee Pie - a combination of banana and toffee with cream topping and a graham cracker crust.
Kirk Sexton, a local customer, rated Wild Rover 5 stars on google and had this to say about her experience; “Great craft brewery, restaurant and pub. The brewmaster here really knows what he is doing. Excellent craft ales, and the kitchen rolls out some great food. Great pub atmosphere, real dartboards and a room configured like a sports bar as well. This place really has it all."
Katy Morgan, another of many Wild Rover satisfied customers, says “Authentic British pub grub, relaxing atmosphere, great place to chill and eat amazing food.”
Wild Rover opens at 11am and they offer $8 lunch specials, which include a drink. For a small upgrade of $2, you can get an $8 lunch and a $2 beer.
Friday and Saturdays, the chef offers different meal choices on the special board – anything from lamb shank, leek and potato pies to salmon.
“On Sundays from the fall to early spring, we will do a traditional English roast dinner which will either be roast beef, lamb, or pork, with roast potatoes, and Yorkshire puddings,” said Derek. “We also have a full English breakfast with eggs, toast, English-style baked beans, English bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushrooms and tomatoes.”
Months away from retirement, reducing his 7-day workweek and leaving his son in charge, Derek still has big expansion plans for his pub including hosting events in the pub brewery including live bands monthly and theatrical events – potentially Rocky Horror. “We are planning a huge anniversary celebration on August 19. We have two bands at the moment and are looking to book one or two more,” he said.
Because of its rather hidden unassuming location, people come to the pub not anticipating the magic that awaits them inside. It may look like a warehouse on the outside, but his best compliment comes from expats’ reaction from behind closed doors.
“People say it feels like they’re walking into a pub at home.”
The Wild Rover Brewery is located at 13921 Lynmar Blvd. Tampa, FL 33626, behind Dunkin Donuts off of Race Track Road.
Open Monday through Thursday 11am to 11pm, 11am -11:59 pm om Friday and Saturday, and 11am to 9:00pm on Sunday.
Learn more about The Wild Rover Brewery at Facebook.com/WildRoverBrewery/