In a New Beer Friday in March I posted my thoughts about Big Storm Brewing Co.’s Wavemaker Amber Ale and made note that I needed to visit their brewery, which was only about a half hour away from me. Well it took me five months and a random Friday off for other reasons but I finally made it. And now I’m wondering why I waited so long.
Let me preface this by saying ALL craft beer is light years better than most mass-produced macrobrews. But something I’ve noticed is that the breweries that concentrate more on the making of the beer in rather than the selling of the beer, tend to be more experimental, which yields more complex and flavorful recipes.
This is evidenced by Big Storm’s tasting room. The entire brewery is located in an industrial park in Odessa FL (you actually walk in through a giant garage door) and their tasting room simply consists of a small bar and a few tables right in the middle of the brewery floor. Brewmasters are ten feet away from you checking kettles and brewery workers load pallates right next to your table. It’s cool to be right in the thick of the process while you enjoy your beverage.
While the seating was limited, the place was filled with beer-lovers, a few of whom were obviously regulars. The girls behind the bar were very friendly and knew just about everything there was to know about each style. At one point my server consulted the brewmaster for me about a question I had regarding the seasonal availability of the Oktoberfest.
Speaking of the Oktoberfest, it was the first beer I tried. A traditional marzen-style ale, Big Storm’s Oktoberfest pours a solid copper color with about a finger of head and slight lacing. You can pick up a scent of sweet caramel as is traditional.
The caramel comes through on the first pull with an accompanying maltiness. Just a bit more carbonation than is usually found in this style produces slightly more tiny bubbles which deliver a more robust flavor. Said flavor does not mellow on the back end but does round out to a sweet finish and, interestingly enough, I picked up just a hint of candied yams.
I’ve long been an advocate of Samuel Adams’ Octoberfest and touted it as one of my favorite beers. As difficult as this is for me to admit, Big Storm’s Oktober beats it in every way. This is a perfect fall beer. Sadly, they do not bottle or can this particular brew so you’ll have to go to the tasting room to try it. When you do, bring a growler!
As you know I tend to gravitate more towards ambers, reds and browns, so next I tried the Chief’s Bitter Brown Ale. This was a rather unique take on a standard brown ale especially since bitters tend to be much lighter.
The Bitter Brown pours a dark brown, almost blackish color, with nearly two fingers of head and a heavy lacing that stuck around for quite a while. There’s a very earthy aroma to this beer.
The first pull delivers a heavily roasted malt flavor with hints of dark chocolate and the bitterness is right there on the forefront. It doesn’t mellow at all but becomes stronger on the back end with a slight black licorice aftertaste which I found rather pleasing. I would warn only that you may have to like bitter ales in order to appreciate this one but if you do, you’ll be rewarded with a very complex and layered brew.
Finally, even though I’ve had it before I had to go for the Wavemaker Amber Ale on draft. It is every bit as good as the first time I tried it and the draft only intensified those flavors. The Wavemaker is hands-down one of the best Amber Ales I’ve ever had and I’m thankful the brewery as close as it is which means high availability.
As the Fall Beer season is my favorite time of the year, I have a number of local breweries with interesting Fall flavors (Pair O’Dice’s Pumpkin Vanilla, Wild Rover’s Sweet Potato Stout), that I plan on trying before everything disappears at the end of October, but I will be back to this one at least once before then, with friends in tow. True, Odessa can be kind of a hike from the Downtown Tampa or St. Pete/Clearwater areas, but the folks at Big Storm really care about the beer-making process and if you’re the type of zythophile who appreciates that, it’s worth the trip.
Tried Big Storm Brewing Co? Leave a message in the comments section!
And remember… the food abides.