There are many meanings for the word “arcus.” From flies to architecture to firearms, the Latin root for “arch” is applied in many different ways. In the case of today’s brewery, it’s literally up in the air.
An arcus cloud is one of two types of formation; the shelf cloud and the much rarer roll cloud. Both are formed by way of atmospheric convection. Shelf clouds are usually along the leading edge of thunderstorms, the gust front a good indicator of a heavy wind squall approaching.
I find it fitting that this should be the name of an India Pale Ale we recently acquired. As shelf clouds announce the arrival of a storm system, so too does Arcus herald the coming of Big Storm Brewery.
Based out of Odessa, Florida, Big Storm has only been around for two years. Business has been good enough to see them more than triple their original targeted annual output; a good indicator that you’re making a good product. The brewery is the result of the hard work of Mike Bishop and Clay Yarn, friends since meeting at University of South Florida in 2002.
Bishop interned at Dunedin Brewery – Florida’s oldest craft brewery (even though they started making beer in 1988, local fave McGuire’s is a brew pub, not a commercial brewery) – and learned a great deal about making beer that Floridians want. If that sounds weird, let me explain.
Florida is only truly cold 1/3 of the time, and that’s mostly the north half of the state. Greater Tampa, where Dunedin, Cigar City and Big Storm all call home, for example is cold – 32-50 F – only 18% of the year. Our state is possessive of a climate that normally calls out for thirst-quenching beer. Not to suggest that all beer can’t slake our collective parched throats, just that some styles appeal more broadly to most of us in the Sunshine State.
Florida brewers tend to get the tried-and-true styles of beer right every time. Yes, there are breweries like Cigar City and Funky Buddha out there making awesome, experimental beers, but when you look at the everyday beers like wheat, amber and pale ale, whether it’s Pensacola Bay or Big Storm it always comes out spot on. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest it’s because Florida brewers craft their beer with the weather in mind. They live here, too, and know how beer works with different degrees of sweltering.
Back to that Arcus IPA. Super-solid would be an apt description. With maximum verbosity, Arcus is amber-orange with a tall head that recedes to a permanent, bubbly cap that leaves thick sheets of lacing. There’s a grove’s worth of fresh orange blossom on the nose alongside toasty caramel malt. Bitterness is high but barely balanced out with some biscuit sweetness; a wise decision by Mike Bishop to include Florida honey. Loads of tangerine, grapefruit and pine are followed by a mellow malt base.
Arcus is usually a portent of rough weather, but in this case it’s Florida in a glass. Welcome to The Panhandle, Big Storm!