There is a really good possibility that when I make it back to the Big Storm production facility in Clearwater, I won’t be able to recognize the place anymore. Big, big things are coming.
I have been to the more experimental brewing facility in Odessa, maybe 30 or so minutes north. This was my first time in the huge, gleaming Clearwater location, though. Coming in, I met up with their numbers and social guy LJ and Big Storm founder Mike Bishop for a spin around the block.
I had to get a beer first, because brewery tour. Opting to start light, I went with Wheat Me in St. Louis (Hefeweizen, 4.6% ABV, 20 IBU), a light and opaque wheat ale that had a load of brighter citrus notes, less than the normal banana-esque notes. It almost feels like it was fermented with a regular ale yeast and not a hefeweizen yeast, which I thought was a creative touch.
It was a cleaning day, so their huge 30 BBL system was going through a nice, thorough scrubdown. That is something Big Storm definitely prided themselves on, making sure the system looks brand new and spotless (as some visiting brewers have commented on, thinking the system hadn’t been used yet).
What I was treated to was a canning run underway of Arcus (IPA, 6.2% ABV, 56 IBU), Big Storm’s flagship IPA. Supervising was Big Storm’s new brewmaster Joel Moore, and I suddenly got treated to a can of Arcus that was canned literally 10 seconds prior. Not going to lie, that was awesome.
What I find out interesting is Big Storm’s packaging, the first Florida brewer to use cartons for their 4 and 6 packs. Mike said it has afforded them a great amount of leeway in quickly changing package designs, along with being easy to stack and giving a huge amount of surface area of which they can fill with Big Storm imagery.
But it’s not just Big Storm getting the package treatment. Fat Point Brewing, of which the Big Storm family was apparently always close with, is now under the Big Storm umbrella and their packaged beers will now be produced in Clearwater. They already did a run of Big Boca, which was sitting in the cooler.
We sat down to lunch, courtesy of new Head Chef Gerry Malynowsky (formerly of Cigar City Brewpub). Chef Malynowsky himself actually showed up, fresh out of a meeting going over designs for a new kitchen for Big Storm’s new expansion, which will sit next door to the current Clearwater facility. The expansion, in addition to providing an on-stage kitchen and expanded tap room, will also house canning, allowing the production output to expand greatly.
Regardless, what Big Storm has going on is quite nice anyway. While waiting for our food (and enjoying a great artichoke & feta crudite platter), I got to taste the end of Belgian Category 5 (Belgian Golden Strong, 11.1% ABV, 20 IBU), the last in their temporary run of Belgian-style ales.
It’s just as insanely thick and sweet as you can imagine. Gigantic notes of malt and dark fruit in a Braveheart-style battle for dominance with the very heady booziness of the alcohol. I got a taster, and that was really all I needed for it to hit.
Lunch was the brisket sandwich, off menu but still recommended by LJ. It did not disappoint at all, and I got it with a side of their new 4-pack limited edition Tropic Pressure (Golden Ale, 4.4% ABV, 17 IBU).
Tropic is easily one of my favorite beers from them, a golden ale sweetened with hibiscus flowers that blend with a light, candy sugar-esque malt quality to deliver a beer so innately refreshing that draining the entire 4 pack would be way too easy.
I had a great time visiting, and I definitely need to thank LJ, Mike, and the entire Big Storm crew for their hospitality. Don’t know when, but I will need to come back soon.
But will I recognize the place?
Drink Florida Craft,