Darren Fehring’s life could have gone in two directions after he earned his degree in molecular cellular developmental biology: forever look through a microscope or brew beer. His selection of the latter has led to a new watering hole for Sarasota — The Mad Crow Brewery and Grill.
“Even with brewing, it’s definitely an art, but also has a very thick layer of science,” Fehring said.
Fehring is a self-proclaimed “Deadhead,” and it was while following the Grateful Dead in college that Fehring discovered his true calling. The cosmic nudge rolled up in the form of a guy driving a Volkswagen bus plastered with stickers.
“One time, in California, I was following the Dead and someone showed up in a VW bus with a Sierra Nevada (beer),” he said. “The clouds parted, and I had an epiphany.”
Fehring started brewing his own beer about 20 years ago, and for the past 10 years, he’s been opening brewpubs along the East Coast, from Key West to Vermont.
“The only thing I’ve done my entire adult life is brew beer,” Fehring said. “Everything except fruit beer. I don’t do that.”
For the past few months, Fehring and his business partner, Mark Marchionni, have worked to transform the Rustic Grill, 1525 Fourth St., into a brewpub. The location, with its natural wood and brick, is a prime spot for drawing not only the community, but also beer enthusiasts from across the country.
“Brewpubs are really good for the community because they have local products you can only get here,” Fehring said. “We want to make downtown Sarasota the place to be. It’s a cool place — one more restaurant, one more draw.”
The Mad Crow Brewery and Grill is slated to open this November.
“Mark was looking for an old-school whimsy English name,” Fehring said. “With so many (other bars with) animal names, ‘mad crow’ came onto Mark’s radar. You have to have an icon to transfer into different scenarios. We sell a lot of T-shirts and pint glasses. Beer geeks travel hundreds of miles to come to new brewpubs and always want something to take home with them.”
The brewpub will feature at least eight styles of beer at a time. Fehring never produces the same beer twice, but specializes in stouts, Belgian styles with hand-crushed coriander, IPAs, golden ales and oatmeal amber.
“Because of all the spent grain after brewing, we give that to local farmers for free to feed their animals,” Fehring said.
A seasonal menu will offer traditional brewpub fare such as burgers, nachos and wings but will focus on using fresh, local ingredients.
“I like to say we do ordinary food extraordinarily well,” Fehring said. “Will we have nachos? Yes. But they’ll be the best damn nachos Sarasota has ever tasted. You’ve got to have that special kind of crazy.”
MAD CROW BEERS
Caribbean stout — Deep, rich stout that uses flaked corn to give it a slightly sweet flavor.
Belgian double — Starts with 50 pounds of Belgian caramelized rock candy that provide deep flavors and unique undertones.
American IPA — Cascade hops give it a grapefruit undertone, and Amarillo hops gives it a tangerine undertone. This beer offers a citrus balance.
Oatmeal amber — Flaked oats make it an easy-to-drink, full-bodied beer.
Scottish wee heavy — As soon as the bottom of the kettle starts filling up with liquid, it’s turned on to simmer, which caramelizes the sugars to create a malted, high-octane beer.