It was our last day in Florida and thoughts of the weather back home began to creep back into my mind. We had decided to take a drive down to Sarasota, and after a stroll along the sunny Lido Key beach we took to shady St. Armand’s Circle for window shopping and a light lunch. With checks paid and hunger sated we ventured to the mainland toward our first drinking destination of the day: Calusa Brewing.
Like so many breweries, Calusa is located in a small industrial complex. Theirs is nestled into the outskirts of southern Sarasota. The building was easy to spot due to their bright turquoise logo on the corner of the warehouse that they call home. I stepped out of the air conditioning of the car and was instantly hit with the heat of the sun amplified by their asphalt parking lot. These were two experiences we were soon to forget once we ventured back home. I made a vow to enjoy it while we could. Like our previous visit to JDub’s Brewing Company, Calusa had their brewing facility and taproom open to the warm Florida air.
We briskly stepped into their taproom and, while my eyes adjusted to the change in light, I set my gaze on their tap list. With twelve beers on tap there were plenty of beers to choose from to fill out my customary flight. If you like IPAs then you’d love Calusa; of those twelve there were 8 IPAs and 4 DIPAs! Tasters in tow, we took a spot at a picnic table outside and adjusted the umbrellas for maximum shade coverage. The warmth is always nice, but I’d made it over a week into the trip without a sunburn and I was determined to return home with only a mild tan.
Their flight boards are made of a piece of banded wood with a dark stain and a hooked end. There are four holes that tulip glasses are set into. Once the board is lifted the glasses settle into it. I’ve seen many flights in this style but this one was the most well made and pleasing to look at. It was aided in large part to each tulip sporting their beautiful cursive logo. As I’m writing this I’m saddened to think how often these glasses must disappear! My brother-in-law noted that he thought the flight boards were “on point” which is truly high praise.
I tried the Schwifty Pilsener, Fireborn Smoked Lager, The Process North East IPA, and Dissonance Brown Ale. I wasn’t expecting a smoked lager to be found in sunny Flirday, but I really enjoyed the Fireborn. It was light and creamy with a mild smokiness that added a nice depth to the aroma and flavor. I finished the flight with Dissonance and the old adage “save the best for last” held true. My tasting notes are filled with the following adjectives: roasted chocolate, coffee, smooth, milky, delicate, caramel, and delicious. Easily my favorite beer of the visit.
As the group reminisced about our trip and traded our favorite memories, I was able to take a quick walking tour of the taproom. It’s a large open space with a cavernous exposed ceiling. Barrels are stacked on most of the corners and a large mural of their logo adorns the wall above their long wooden bar. A handful of very large wooden tables make up the majority of the indoor seating. The light spills onto the smooth concrete floors from a single open garage door and a handful of large windows provide ample views of their production area. Their patio is in the corner of the parking lot and was flanked during our visit by the Mother Truckin Good food truck. A very nice space with great attention to detail.
On my way back to our table I grabbed a t-shirt and one final beer. It was called Friends Like These, and was a Wheatwine. It’s a style that I’ve never tried before and it sounded fairly intriguing. Despite the high ABV of 11.5%, it wasn’t boozy but still maintained a sweet flavor and syrupy texture that I’d expected. It had a sizable vanilla aroma and a light coffee flavor. My sister-in-law described it as having the aroma of a Tootsie Roll! I was inclined to agree, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.
Calusa Brewing is one of those places that’s got a good following of locals while being very approachable for tourists. During our visit the taproom was full of dogs and children. The patrons ranged from young couples all the way to snowbirds. My only gripe was the amount of IPAs on tap. I enjoy IPAs but when over 2/3rds of your tap list is IPAs and half of those are DIPAs it can be hard for some people to find something that they enjoy. It may have been an aberration because as of writing this post they only have four IPAs on the menu, so check the list before visiting if it’s something that concerns you. On the plus side, the IPAs that I did taste during our visit were excellent. That’s a quality that seemed to be present in their entire selection. So if you’re in Sarasota, carve out some time to visit!