“It’s just beer,” says Big Blue Brewing’s Master Brewer and Cape Coral resident Alexander Sarames. “It’s the most popular phrase among brewmasters around the country.”
Just a few months ago Alex won the “Best Florida Beer Award.” He entered his 4% ABV (alcohol content) cold fermented, American cream ale and took home the gold. It is appropriately named “Lightest Thing Ya Got,” and is a favorite among Big Blue patrons. The glass plaque award is prominently displayed proudly above the bar.
When Alex left New Jersey for Oregon years ago, he had no idea of the life and career changes that would take place in the upcoming years. He continued home brewing as a hobby while volunteering at local breweries for experience. Realizing the difficulties of breaking into the exclusive industry, he wound up working at a chemical manufacturing facility in Bend, Oregon. He told me that he was the youngest of the trainees by 13 years. This involved on-the-job training working with vials, beakers, and microscopes.
Bend is a community of 75,000 people, located on the eastern edge of the Cascade Range and along the Deschutes River. It is also home to the Deschutes Brewery, the 8th largest craft brewery in the nation. There are also 18 other smaller local craft breweries there making the area perhaps the most sophisticated beer culture in the country. Alex decided that it was the perfect location to learn the beer brewing business.
Finding that his new talent and knowledge of organic chemistry would be of interest to local brewers, he launched into a new career with the Crux Fermentation Project to be trained in all aspects of the brewing industry. Alex found that he was a fast learner and really loved all aspects of the business of creating, selling and marketing beer.
He explained to me, “Yeast is the soul of any beer! You may use water, hops, and malt, but if the yeast isn’t hoppy, the beer will not taste good.” Alex perfected his expertise in yeast management with the help of his newly found friends and was humbled to be trained by the best brewmasters in the area.
Alex moved on to Silver Moon Brewery Co. to assist new owners in their rapid expansion. With facilities in Bend and another nearby location, he helped them grow from 1,200 barrels a year to over 8,000. During his time in Oregon, he attended many craft brewing conferences and large beer festivals while making important industry contacts. Working up to seven days a week, Alex decided he needed a break.
After a lengthy search, Alex took a position in the Caribbean, on the island of St. Croix, running a small boardwalk micro-brewery called “Brew STX.” He worked diligently to restore the defunct brewery until the island was devastated by a hurricane last fall. Using his contacts in the industry, he was rescued from the island and eventually made it back to the US. He soon was recruited by Dan Termini, VP of Big Blue Brewery. Big Blue is owned and operated by JoAnn Elardo, who also owns the Wicked Dolphin Distillery in Cape Coral.
When asked about any unusual stories he might want to share, he laughed, and then recalled one from his days back in Oregon. “When I came to work one morning, I could hear the loud hiss of a pressure valve on one of the tanks and immediately rushed to release it. I had forgotten to open it the night before and the pressure was building up in one of the tanks.” The result was that the room became filled knee deep in white foam. “It was a little embarrassing,” he said, “but things like that happen in this business.”
He was asked, “With all the types of beer you brew, how can you tell the difference from batch to batch?” Alex smiled and said, “Besides having my recipes that I constantly tweak, I have been blessed with a unique palate of taste and that is the key secret of any brewer. I also have a great handle on the flavors and aromas of what I create. I understand how my final product will turn out based on the knowledge of how certain hops, malts, and yeast are supposed to smell and taste.”
Alex is very proud of doing all the brewing himself, while also being extremely meticulous on cleanliness and sanitation. “I am very particular that everything I control is kept spotlessly clean—even the draft lines to the taps behind the bar which are cleaned weekly.” Too many run of the mill beer halls rarely clean out the lines and after awhile, they get clogged with old, stale yeast. “Beer drinkers can develop stomach problems from these taps, as well as the taps imparting not so desirable flavors. This will not happen here at Big Blue on my watch.”
Alex loves his life here in Cape Coral and has big plans for more custom brews at Big Blue. He wants to experiment in fermenting some beers in old, oak casks, formerly used for rum and other liquors. He would also like to brew some hard ciders in the future, but that requires special licenses. Alex currently has twelve homebrews on tap and twelve guest brewed taps. He is working hard to expand the number of “house brews” offered.
Big Blue Brewing is located on 47th Terrace in the heart of the Cape Coral entertainment strip. This gastropub has a great food menu they are always tweaking and a complete line of handcrafted cocktails, along with weekly entertainment.
On behalf of Big Blue, Alex would like to invite beer drinkers to come in and taste some the unique brews they offer. “We have available taster trays to allow you to try four different beers of your choosing,” he said. “Ask for me and, if I’m available, I will personally come out and explain how I brewed what is being consumed. We also offer scheduled tours on Saturdays, 11-2pm, plus we host many charitable events for the Cape Coral community.”