Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Business

Pasco's Big Storm Brewery expands

ODESSA — In the taproom at Big Storm Brewery, vintage bulbs hang above the bar and the beer in your mug was made in the brew house you can see from your seat.

This, said co-owner Mike Bishop, is a big change from what visitors saw when he and Clay Yarn started the business last year: "a few little pots and a couple tiny tanks."

In 2012, Big Storm's goal was to produce 1,000 barrels of beer a year. Now, the growing brewery is "on track for about 3,500."

The brewing company — which conducts most of its business outside the taproom — has probably grown "a thousand percent" since brewing began in the summer of 2012, said Bishop, 29.

"We had to (grow) just to keep up. The beer business is crazy," he said.

Bishop met Yarn, 32, in 2002, while both were students at the University of South Florida. After college, Bishop worked as a financial adviser and Yarn in commercial insurance sales. Both lost their jobs. Both really liked beer.

Bishop was initially hesitant when Clay suggested they brew beer as a business. Bishop learned the craft and business of beer making as an intern at the Dunedin Brewery on and off for a couple years, but "I had no intentions of trying to open a brewery."

But after Yarn "begged and pleaded for a little while," Bishop agreed.

Now, Bishop is head brewer for Big Storm, which means "what we brew, when we brew (and) anything inside the brewery is my world," he said.

Yarn handles sales and distribution and manages vendor relations as part of Big Storm's ultimate plan:

"Global domination," Yarn said.

Actually, Bishop said, "the plan's to stay in the state of Florida — for now."

A year and a half ago, Big Storm beer was on tap at 15 bars across Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Now they're in about 100 bars, Bishop said, on both coasts and as far south as Key West, and throughout the entire Tampa Bay area.

"When Bishop and I get to (bars in) downtown St. Pete or Palm Harbor, we see people drinking our beer," Yarn said. "That's really cool."

Pasco drinkers can buy it at local bars or at the brewery. But the taproom, which didn't exist when the brewery opened in 2012, isn't a bar.

"We don't serve liquor or wine, we only serve our beers, we don't have any TV's," Bishop said.

There are six beers on tap — some of them award-winning — all "cooked" in what Bishop calls the "stainless steel farm" that dominates Big Storm's 2,500-square foot warehouse. Big Storm brews two or three days a week.

"I did the math," Bishop said, and "if it takes four beers to get a person drunk, I think we have enough to get 17,000 people drunk."

But that isn't why craft beer consumers show up. Jeff Hoskins and his fiance Denise Hutchins heard about Big Storm's taproom by word of mouth before stopping by once last month. Since then, they have become regulars.

The taproom is "kind of a novelty," said Hoskins, 50, who lives in New Port Richey. "Everything else is bright and loud. The focus (at bars) is not on the beer."

At Big Storm, there are "no distractions," said Hutchins, 45.

"Flat out, the beer is delicious," Hoskins said.

Which is exactly what Bishop and Yarn like to hear.

"We want our name to be recognized, yes," Yarn said. "But we more importantly want craft consumers to enjoy our beer."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.

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