I thought long and hard about the title for this post, and I couldn’t resist the pun. I hope you’ll forgive me.
Puns aside, there really is a Big Storm Brewery in Odessa, and they really are brewing up a storm. Co-founders Clay Yarn and Mark Bishop opened Big Storm in July 2012 as the first brewery in Pasco County.
In the year since they opened, demand has soared to the point where Big Storm is already upgrading its original 3.5 bbl brewhouse to a 15 bbl system, which is set to go online in September. Chances are, if you haven’t seen Big Storm in a store or bar near you, soon you shall. They’re set to go from 30 accounts to nearly 300 after the new brewhouse becomes operational.
Big Storm truly is the incarnation of many a homebrewer’s dream. A little over three years ago, Clay and “Bishop” were roommates, and after Bishop brewed his second batch of beer in their apartment, he knew that’s what he wanted to do with his life. “It wasn’t really even that good,” Clay admitted, “but Bishop didn’t care.”
Bishop was taken on as an intern at Dunedin Brewing, and for two years he learned the craft from the ground up. Clay summed it up, “We would sit on the porch, just the two of us getting bombed on all the beer we were brewing at home, dreaming of where it could go.”
The seminal moment came when both Clay and Bishop lost their jobs at about the same time. “We were like, now is the time. I told Bishop he was going to be the head brewer, and we’re going to make it work,” Clay said.
From that moment on, the two roommates bootstrapped their way to commercial brewing. For the first three months, 20-hour days were not uncommon. And on their first brew day as Big Storm, they brewed what would become their flagship, Wavemaker Amber, and the cost of that batch took them down to their last dollar.
As with every great American success story, the pair rose from the ashes, and Big Storm continues to brew great beer. I was up in the tasting room a couple weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to sample the wares. Big Storm’s regular rotation goes five-deep, and all the beers are solid.
If you want to check out the brewery, the tasting room is open Thursday – Saturday, noon to 9pm, and Sunday and Monday 3 to 7pm. If you won’t be in the Odessa area any time soon, you can catch Big Storm at the 97X Craft Beer Experience on August 17 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
Wavemaker Amber – The beer that put Big Storm on the map. It’s got a nice malt backbone and a clean hoppy finish with a mild roasty character. Nicely balanced and very easy drinking.
Palmbender – A pale ale brewed with grains of paradise. It has a bready malt character with a hint of pepper on the finish.
Arcus IPA – Brewed with orange blossom and Brazilian pepper honey.
Firestorm Black IPA – Dark, hoppy IPA with a slight roasty character. It’s an excellent dark IPA, a style I consider quite difficult to pull off well. This is one of the best I’ve had.
The Kalm Kolsch – Fruity with a clean malt finish. Flavorful and sessionable.