It all started simple enough.
Mike Bishop and Clay Yarn wanted to escape their stuffy office jobs, so they leased some industrial space in Odessa with the hopes of brewing a little bit of beer, and sharing it with anyone who happened to discover their operation.
Instead, a 200-barrel operation exploded into a 5,000-barrel one in the span of two short years. And it might not be long before Big Storm Brewing Co. hits the 100,000-barrel mark.
“I never thought when we started that we would ever need anything more than this little shop,” said Bishop, who lives in Land O’ Lakes. “We just thought we would make boutique beers, and make enough to pay the bills and give us a little money on the side. But that was not our destiny. People just wanted our beers.”
In a short time, Big Storm grew from two employees to 16. Once they find bigger quarters somewhere in central Pasco County — they are looking for up to 50,000 square feet — they could grow 50 to 75 employees.
Big Storm already is available in many bars around the state, recently expanding into South Florida where brews like Wavemaker Amber Ale, Palmbender Pale Ale and Arcus IPA are sold as drafts. This week, Big Storm becomes available for the first time in Orlando.
Big Storm doesn’t necessarily compete with big names in beer like Budweiser or Coors, but instead with other craft beers — many brewed in Florida — looking to get a foothold on the market.
“None of them want to admit that we’re competing against each other, and they talk about our craft beer community and how tight it is,” Bishop said. “Nobody wants to talk about the dirty word of competition, but we put people on the street and we believe in relationships. Otherwise, we keep our heads down and focus on our product, and let the consumer decide.”
Bishop also listens to what customers have to say, especially those who come right into the brewery. Big Storm has a taproom open every evening where anyone who can find it off State Road 54 can stop in and drink a mug or two, or maybe three.
Many of those customers come in through a bay door, and sit literally feet away from large brewing tanks that make the very product they’re sipping.
“We are an approachable, friendly brewery, and we’re happy that locals come up here and have a pretty good time,” Bishop said. “It’s a cool hangout in the middle of an industrial park right inside a garage.”
Unlike many bars, the taproom is designed to be social. There are no televisions, and the music is just low enough to keep conversations flowing.
Beyond needing larger space and more employees, Bishop has a lot to focus on, including plans to start putting Big Storm in cans to sell in stores.
It’s not exactly what he had envisioned just two years ago when the doors to Big Storm Brewing Co. first opened, but that’s perfectly fine with Bishop.
“I don’t have much time anymore to be excited, but I am very fortunate,” he said. “I’ve made a profession that I have a passion for and that I enjoy. And I’m proud that I have employees that feel the exact same way.”
The taproom is open at 4 p.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 p.m. on Sundays. The brewery is located at 2438 Merchant Ave., in Odessa.
To learn more, visit BigStormBrewery.com.
Published April 9, 2014