- September 23, 2016
This Saturday, Big Top Brewing Co. celebrates its first anniversary. CEO Mike Bisaha, who founded the brewery with partners Josh Wilson and Seth Murauskas, says he hopes to use the brewery to honor Sarasota's rich circus history and help make it a destination in the beer world.
We sat down with him to talk craft beer, hometown history and the brewery's focus on creativity.
Tell me how Big Top got its start.
It really got started as a neighborhood garage project. Seth Murauskasis is my neighbor, and we would hang out in his garage and drink craft beer. He had a collection of all the different bottles we'd tried, and we thought it it would be so cool if one day, one of them was ours.
Josh Wilson has been home brewing for 25 years, so we thought we'd try to take it to the next level.
Why was Sarasota a good place to open?
We saw a need for something like this here, and we wanted to represent the history of Sarasota and what helped put it on the map. I'd never consider doing it somewhere else; I've been here all my life. We already have so many things that draw people to Sarasota — why not add a brewery to the list?
What was your vision for the brewery?
We wanted to build something that Sarasota would be proud of. People in Tampa now talk about where they live in reference to Cigar City as much as they do sports teams. We have the utmost respect for those guys and what they've done for Florida craft beer. It would be amazing to see us become a destination like that for Sarasota.
What makes Big Top unique?
I think creativity is definitely our strongest suit. We're not afraid to push the boundaries and do things people didn't think were possible with beer. There are a lot of people who still think craft beer is just hoppy and bitter, but there are so many options.
We're not afraid to get a little crazy. We've thrown chocolate cakes into the mash, actual key lime pies — we do a lot of experimental one-offs.
We also do a lot of collaborations with local restaurants and bars, because without them, we don't exist. It's a great opportunity for both of us, because we can go to them and make exactly what they want for their customers, and they'll be the only place to ever have that beer.
We do a monthly contest with our customers, and the winner gets to come down here and brew their beer idea. That's how we developed Decklin's Indugence, a chocolate peanut butter brown ale that's become a favorite here.
What do you love most about craft beer?
Things are always changing. We're always thinking about what will be the next popular beer, what we'll come up with or what will be possible next.
IF YOU GO:
Big Top Brewing Co. Anniversary Party — takes place at 2 p.m. at Big Top Brewing Co., 6111 Porter Way. Free.
This celebration features special releases, Big Cat Rescue demonstrations, a tight rope walk by Blake Wallenda, live music, food and more.