Nestled between New Port Richey and Land O' Lakes in Pasco County lies a small town called Odessa. With slightly more than 7,000 residents, it's the quintessential "sleepy suburban town." Unlike most small towns, though, this one has a brewery: Big Storm Brewery.
Big Storm is the product of Mike Bishop and Clay Yarn, who opened it in 2012 with a yearly production of about 250 barrels. Soon afterward, they grew to producing 480 barrels annually and are now expanding to fulfill ten times that amount and distribute to not only neighboring counties but around the state.
This past month, Bishop and his team won silver medals for two beers at the Best Florida Beer Competition: Bishops Brides Ale in the German Brown/Dusseldorf-Style Altbier category and Dunder and Blixem in the Strong Ale category.
This week, the award-winning Odessa-based brewery is coming to select bars across Broward and Palm Beach counties, courtesy of Stevens Distributing.
We caught up with Mike Bishop, head brewer for Big Storm, at the Riverside Market in Fort Lauderdale, where he gave us the rundown on his brewery.
"My goal when brewing is to create a balanced beer," he said, "while trying not to be too aggressive with flavors."
We sampled a couple of their beers that were available: the Wavemaker Amber ale (lots of caramel malts, and it stands at 5.8 percent alcohol by volume) and the Arcus IPA (a 6.9 percent abv brew chock-full of local Pasco County honey, which stands out like a road sign, and Cascade hops). Palmbender Pale ale will be the third core beer available to consumers.
"The Florida craft scene is huge," Bishop says. "It's blown up."
He's seen it all happen firsthand too, having been involved with Dunedin Brewery for three years before starting Big Storm.
As for some of the more culinary-inspired beers that Florida is becoming known for, Bishop thinks that they're great but that it's best to find something you're good at and stick to it.
"Every brewery has to draw the line for their identity. We, particularly, like to brew to style and brew sessionable beers... Not everything is appealing to everyone."
There's still a lot of room for brewers, he remarks.
"I've seen a lot in the industry: good people, good consumers... It's just crazy awesome. [Florida] is the place. It's the 'Wild West' of craft beer."
You can find Big Storm Brewery's beers in select retail accounts in South Florida starting this week (draft only for the moment) from Fort Lauderdale to Delray Beach.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.