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New Kids on the Block: Calusa Brewing Co. fosters craft beer community

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  • | 2:53 p.m. June 2, 2015
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With five breweries to its name, the Sarasota-Manatee region might seem to be nearing its craft beer capacity.

But for the owners of Calusa Brewing Co., which is set to open in the next six months, having more quality breweries in the area is something to be happy about.

"I love this industry," says co-owner Geordie Rauch. "It's the only industry I know of where the competition helps each other out. There's such a love for the craft itself that you don't see anywhere else. Yeah, we're the new guys on the block, but that's not a bad thing. More good breweries in Sarasota will only help create a better culture here."

Rauch, who grew up on Longboat Key with business partner Vic Falck, says the idea for the brewery first came about a few years ago, thousands of miles from home. The two met Jason Thompson, now Calusa's head brewer, through mutual friends in Ventura, Calif., where the three connected over their shared love for craft brewing.

"I said, 'Hey, if you ever need a head brewer, just let me know,''' says Thompson, who had been honing his skills as a home brewer for close to a decade.

Rauch was completing a military career and Falck, a fellow veteran, was working for his family's Siesta Key resort. When they learned about Thompson's brewing talents and reputation for making quality beer in Ventura, they decided to turn their shared passion into a business here in Sarasota.

"It was all really organic," says Thompson. "And we want to keep things that way."


Thompson moved to Sarasota to join his new business partners, and after a yearlong search for the ideal venue, they landed on an 8,500-square-foot facility near the intersection of Clark and McIntosh roads, where they say they hope to build a brand Sarasota can be proud of.

"We chose the name Calusa after the Native American tribe from the south side of Tampa Bay," says Falck. "Geordie and I grew up on the water here, and the Calusa were known for their skills as watermen. They really represent what we're all about and where we come from. We have a deep connection with Florida and the water, and we hope people can identify with that."

Rauch says the three have an affinity for hoppy, West Coast-style beers, as well as barrel-aged stouts and sours, but that Calusa will brew a large variety of beers. Above all, he says, their goal is quality.

"We want to be known as a brewery that always puts out great beer," he says. "We want customers to know that whatever beer they pick, it's going to be top-notch. Our focus is definitely on quality over quantity, and I think that's how we'll create a demand for our product."

Falck says they're currently in the permitting process, and over the next few months, they'll continue perfecting recipes and build out the facility to outfit it with a 15-barrel, six-fermenter system and a tasting room, which they say will have an industrial, authentic atmosphere.

Calusa Brewing - vf4 - iso

Eventually, they hope to utilize their large facility to include an outdoor area, and they've even tossed around ideas for a possible second, quirkier tasting room to highlight barrel-aged and sour beers. But for now, they say they're just looking forward to seeing their business come to fruition.

"We're excited to show off what we've been working on and what Jason's been creating," says Rauch. "We just want to bring people awesome beer. Sarasota's already a destination, and growing our craft-beer culture is only going to help that."


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