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As Vic Falck cleaned the dust and debris off the six stainless steel fermenters that would be the hub of Calusa Brewing Co., reality started to set in.
It had been more than six months since he and his business partners, Geordie Rauch and Jason Thompson, had started work on the business. Up until that point, they’d been consumed with build-outs, retrofits and permitting — they were ready to start brewing.
“The workspace was pretty filthy,” he says. “Everything was covered in dust and drywall. When we got those fermenters cleaned off and polished up, that was a huge moment. Finally, we had something that resembled a brewery. Our hard work was becoming a reality.”
Now, the brewery is just weeks away from opening, and the three couldn’t be happier.
Almost a year after moving into their facility, they’re finally able to do what they set out to do — brew.
Over the past few weeks, Thompson, the head brewer, has been perfecting test batches of their flagship beers in preparation. Some of the recipes, he says, have been a decade in the making, and brewing them on the full-scale system has been an exciting process.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he says. “I’m excited to share these beers with Sarasota.”
Falck and Rauch, who grew up on Longboat Key, first developed the idea for the brewery a few years ago, while they were both in Ventura, Calif., completing their careers in the Navy. There, they connected with Thompson, who had earned a reputation in the area over the last decade for his popular home-brew recipes. The three found they shared a passion for craft beer, and they decided to bring their idea to Sarasota.
They made the move and set out to find a location, eventually settling on an 8,500-square-foot industrial warehouse near the intersection of Clark and McIntosh roads.
The facility, located at 5701 Derek Ave., is a far cry from what it was when they moved in.
Since last summer, the three worked to build out the interior to be a functional brewery and taproom. What was once an empty warehouse is now a state-of-the-art facility, outfitted with office space, a 15-barrel, six-fermenter system and a taproom with a custom-built bar, tap handles and tables.
With the addition of landscaping, a new paint job and a neon sign, Rauch says local anticipation has continued to mount. People stop in daily to ask if they’re open, and seeing the support has made the hard work well worth it.
“It’s great to see that kind of excitement,” he says. “It’s been a lot of work, and we’ve had to wear a lot of hats. But at the end of the day, we love what we’re doing. That’s the awesome part about it. Vic and I grew up together; I’ve known Jason for years. Staying here with them to paint trim until 10 p.m. beats the 9-to-5 grind any day.”
Adding to the Culture
Coming from California, Thompson says the brewery has an affinity for hoppy, West-Coast beers, as well as barrel-aged beers and sours.
Thompson estimates the brewery will open in the next few weeks, and when it opens its doors, it will offer a variety of beers, including a blonde ale, a coffee-cinnamon brown ale, an oatmeal stout, an IPA, a citra IPA and a dry-hopped saison. They plan to expand their offerings to include barrel-aged options.
“We really focused on offering something for everyone,” says Thompson. “We did a lot of blind-tasting panels with people of all different experience levels, and we took all the feedback into consideration. We’ll have beer that’s accessible to newcomers, but also complex enough to please beer nerds like us.”
Even with five breweries in the area, Falck says he sees plenty of opportunity to add to Sarasota’s growing craft-beer culture.
“We want to expand on what the area is already doing and continue to expose Sarasota to high-quality craft beer,” he says. “We can’t wait to get our doors open and let people try what we’ve been making. We want to provide people with world-class beers. It’s a process, and hopefully Sarasota will join us on that journey — and have some fun along the way.”