Big Top Brewing Co. in Sarasota to open tasting room Saturday

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    The brewery

    Sarasota's first production craft brewery, Big Top Brewing Co., started shipping its kegs of beer right after Thanksgiving, but the tasting room at 6111 Porter Way has been closed. That changes Saturday, according to CEO Mike Bisaha, when the tasting room opens its doors to the public at 1 p.m. I got an advance look this afternoon.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Welcome mural

    One of the many murals painted on the walls by Big Top's staff artist, Jessee Hatch, a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Tasting room

    Big Top has made a lot of progress since I last visited in September. Here the tasting room is ready for thirsty visitors. After Saturday's grand opening, which will feature live music, the tasting room will typically be open from 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Bisaha said.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Tank board

    This chalkboard shows what Big Top is brewing. These beers aren't ready to drink; think of this board as a coming soon teaser.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    What's on tap

    This board behind the long bar shows what's available for drinking. In addition to the top three beers -- Big Top's flagships -- expect to find some special offerings. Big Top is aiming to have 10 beers on tap. Some will be available to go in growlers.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    The beer

    A sample of Saison Cirque, Big Top's Belgian-style farmhouse ale. Earthy and fruity and deceptively strong at almost 8 percent alcohol.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Sharing the love

    CEO Bisaha says Big Top's one-offs and special brews aren't going to be exclusive to the tasting room. "Our business model is supporting bars and resturants," he said. To that end Big Top will be sending these beers out, because Bisaha said the tasting room isn't meant to be competition.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Master control

    The master control unit for Big Top's brewing equipment. The brewhouse is at left and several fermenters are visible in the background.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Taps

    You may have seen Big Top tap handles at local bars and restaurants. Look for cans in stores soon.

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    Staff photo / Alan Shaw

    Gift shop

    You can pick up a Big Top shirt and growler during your visit.