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Brew Review

Rollin’ for Brews

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By Joni Williams

 

Tucked away in a small plaza across from Sam’s Club, the Fort Walton Beach Bowl isn’t readily visible from Beal Parkway. Even up close, it looks deceptively small and unassuming on the outside, distinguishable only by a couple of big pins and lettering. But once inside, you’ll find a spacious bowling wonderland, brimming with things to do. And none of them will break the bank.

 

It’s obvious more than a few people had no problem pinning down its location the night we were there, as the parking lot was literally filled to capacity. Once inside, we could see against the backdrop of a cheerful, flying pin mural, plenty of open lanes and stacks of brightly colored balls ready to roll.

 

A game normally costs $3.50 for adults and $2.75 for kids and military members, who get a discount. The best deal, though, is on Friday and Saturday nights when Cosmic Bowling kicks off at 10, featuring unlimited bowling until closing for just $8.50. And the shoe rental fee is included, so no worries if you wander in wearing flip flops (but packing some socks is always a good idea). We were told to get there at 9:30 if we wanted to karaoke. And you know we do.

 

At the far end of the lanes is a bustling, pass-through window where a steady stream of bowlers purchase beer and other drinks. A glass door to its right leads to a full-sized bar. When we peeked in, it looked like a scene straight out of the 1970s. We just had to go in.

 

Done in dark woods and dim lighting punctuated by a bright overhead lamp spotlighting the billiards table, it had an enchanting kind of vintage feel that we loved. Undoubtedly a throwback to the bowl’s history, decades ago, as the Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge, though it has since changed owners, locations and, of course, its name.

 

The bartender definitely went the extra mile, patiently filling us in on bowl happenings while helping us navigate the beer list. The selections were surprisingly varied and included cans, bottles and draft. Pitchers priced at $7.75 offer a choice of Amber Bock, Shock Top, Coors, Miller, Mich or Bud.  And if you’re looking for bargains, they got ‘em, with PBRs priced at $2.50 and an extra-tall can of Dos Equis for five bucks.

 

They also have crafts and higher-end macro brews priced at $3.50 per bottle, such as Grayton’s 30A Beach Blonde, Leinenkugel’s lemony Summer Shandy, Heineken, Guinness, Corona, Angry Orchard and mas Dos Equis, both lager and amber. The newbie brew here is New Belgium’s deep, dark, chocolatey-coffeeish 1554. Yum!

 

We went with their Citradelic IPA that’s plenty hoppy, not too piney and slightly bitter like a classic IPA should be, but with a gentle squeeze of tangerine. Though it’s full-flavored and definitely not a lightweight, it was somehow still smooth and highly drinkable. Definitely a good pick.

 

Next to the lounge is a small snack bar with a big menu, filled with an array of delightful throwback eats like club sandwiches, patty melts and chili cheese dogs. They also have an assortment of burgers and fries starting at under $5. Pizzas appeared to be the house favorite, judging by the number of bowlers in Christmas-colored shoes whisking them away as quickly as they were made.

 

We now understand why they’re open until late—most nights until around 2 a.m. There’s so much to do, you can easily spend at least a few hours here and enjoy every minute of it. With good times, bargain prices and, best of all, a cool retro vibe, it’s obvious that the Fort Walton Beach Bowl is in a league all its own.

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