Five years ago, Scott Harper of Venice’s 3 Bridges Brewing said, “We’re looking forward to brewing for a whole lot more people.”
These days, he’s not alone in that goal.
Despite the pandemic, strong community support has kept craft beer the main growth segment of the beer-brewing industry. According to Statista, “Industry experts expect the craft beer trend to continue to grow in relevance.”
So, as the local beer scene comes to a head, three established breweries have decided the time is right to move to big new digs.
BIG TAP TURNOVERS
Sarasota’s first-ever craft brewery is aiming for the biggest local tap turnover ever.
In September, Big Top Brewing Company moved into a new tasting room at the former Cock & Bull. It now serves live music, beer and BubbaQue’s barbecue in the historic celery packinghouse at 975 Cattlemen Road, two minutes north of Big Top’s previous 12,000-square-foot Porter Road home.
But it’s a temporary move to a temporary taproom while Big Top awaits a mammoth 24,000-square-foot brewery in the new Fruitville Commons.
The move is a homecoming for Sarasota owners Mike Bisaha and Seth Murauskas. They’re now renting a place that Bisaha frequented from the day he could first order a drink.
“We think of the Cock & Bull as our local watering hole, very close to our hearts,” said Bisaha. “It’s where I got introduced to craft beer. This was the spark that started our brewery.”
It was 2013 when the pair brought Sarasota its first craft brewery, named in honor of the city’s circus heritage.
They said, “We have a great town, with a great history, and the only thing missing was that great local beer.”
Then the big top got even bigger.
The team expanded into another full brewery and tasting room in Pensacola, then another in Gainesville — each location carrying Big Top’s package and draft beers, along with local fan faves.
One of the biggest local breweries, Big Top distributes to 70% of Florida—hundreds of bars and restaurants, Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie, Sam’s Club, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and Total Wine & More.
For now, they’re brewing out of a 9,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch production facility at 2507 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., the former Naughty Monk Ale Works — re-envisioned as Big Top Brewers Collective. BubbaQue’s trailer is there every day, with the same music and events as at other Big Top locations.
Still hewing to Belgian beer roots, still brewing and distributing the Monk’s beer, the new Collective will, they say, “help foster and grow the local craft beer environment through thoughtful collaboration.”
Meanwhile, the new Fruitville Commons bar/brewery, which will double current production, aims for an August 2022 grand opening.
3 BRIDGES’ THIRD BREWERY
Tommy Villani unveiled Venice’s first craft brewery in April 2017, teaming up with 3 Bridges Brewing to make Off The Wagon the exclusive source of a line of Venice-crafted beers by Scott and Corey Harper.