If you weren’t familiar from some of my earlier blog posts, Sarasota, Florida is also known as Circus City as a result of its connection to businessman John Ringling and the still well-known Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.
So when homebrewer Josh Wilson opened a production brewery based on his recipes, it was only natural he named it for Sarasota’s circus past: Big Top Brewing.
My wife and I recently vacationed in Sarasota, and while there, took the chance to visit Big Top. We just missed meeting with CEO Mike, but did get the chance to take a look around and sample a fantastic lineup of beer.
Big Top has a lot of now-standards, including a nice giant Jenga set that a little girl had deconstructed and turned into a runway for herself. It was a good. The walls are lined with some very interesting images of circus-heyday Sarasota, as well as pictures of some of their classic beers. Two of those, Trapeze Monk and Circus City, are available in 6-packs in West Coast beer markets.
Big Top Brewing also has quite the outdoor patio setup overlooking I-75. It’s actually quite pretty, but was very rainy when we were there, hence a lack of people enjoying it.
But, we were there for beer. Or at least I was; I got my lovely (and pregnant) wife some dinner and Sprite, while I had this lineup:
Intracoastal Amber (Brown Ale, 5.18% ABV, 28 IBU) – This brown ale has a nice balance between hops and malt. It’s not overly bitter like some brown ales can be, but it’s not over malty sweet, either. It’s light, it’s smooth, and it’s very welcoming.
Key Lime Wheat (Witbier, 5.1% ABV, 17 IBU) – Nicely light for a hefeweizen. What’s more remarkable is that it’s not overly sweet or overly tart at all. So many times I’ve had lime something or other and it ends up being puckeringly sweet, but here it’s a nice, soft, light addition. Very refreshing.
Johnny’s Sweet A$$ Pecan Porter (Porter, 10% ABV) – Holy crap, this is awesome. It’s got a big sweetness, almost like an incredibly good pancake syrup, and that sweetness lingers enough to hide how hard hitting it is. It’s a big 10%, but isn’t harsh when it does so. The beer stays nice and smooth.
A few days before we went, they were adding vanilla ice cream to this to make beer floats. I was incredibly lucky that some ice cream was still left over, so I was able to get a sample of that, too. That was awesome as well. It kinda needs to be permanent there.
The Grand Flanale (Imperial Brown Ale, 9.3% ABV) – This is another interestingly dessert beer, and apparently was brewed with a winner from Big Top’s Facebook page. Instead of pecan, The Grand Flanale uses vanilla flan and caramel to flavor a kicked-up brown ale. And it is smooth with a great, sweet flavor, without being too heavy or sugary.
And even though it was already off draft, there was a little bit of Decklin’s Indulgence Peanut Butter Chocolate Brown Ale (Brown Ale, 6% ABV). With the brown ale, there’s a good amount of chocolate roasty goodness already present in the beer. They added a massive amount of peanut goodness, however, and it’s very delicious. The flavor of fresh-roasted peanuts is unmistakeable and works wonderfully with the malt in the beer.
The brewery is fantastic, and they have quite the lineup of very delicious beers. It makes me a little bummed out that I can’t get their beers near me. Maybe it’ll be time to plan a return trip to Sarasota soon.
Drink Florida Craft,