The Wild Rover brewery is located in the heart of Odessa and is dedicated to bringing guests a variety of hand-crafted ales, lagers and specializing in true cask beer. It was founded in 2013 by father/son team of Derek & Ricky Wells. Derek, an Englishman by birth, was always missing that pub atmosphere that he grew up with in E. Sussex.
Derek decided to open his own pub, and enlisted his son, Ricky, to run the attached brewery. They chose Odessa for their location for one simple reason: Ricky's parents live a mile away from the pub and wanted to work close to home!
I had a chance to chat with Ricky about this British-style pub. Ricky believes their strengths lie in brewing beers to style, and not attempting the extreme or outrageous. They do the occasional 'out of the box' beer, but try to make beer that stands out in and of itself, especially British styles. That's also one of the reasons they push cask ale and keep four casks on regularly.
A specialization in cask beer
Their focus on the British styles gives them a niche in the market, as do the aforementioned cask ales. There are a few other places that might have a cask on every once in a while, or have one on regularly, but Wild Rover has four of them at all times - and plan to add more in the future.
"Coming from an English family (first generation American), I had some exposure to cask beer growing up. My dad has always wanted a real English pub here in the states, and part of what comes with that is real ale, also known as cask ale," he said.
"When we decided to brew our own beer, it was an obvious choice to have our own cask beers on. We're hoping to help push cask beer here in Tampa, Florida, and even the whole of the US. We think it's an under-represented segment of the craft beer scene."
Full steam ahead
In five years, they hope to have expanded to the point where they can distribute throughout Florida, if not all the way up the East Coast. They're hoping to distribute throughout Florida in the next 18-24 months and expand to out-of-state markets in the following 24-36 months.
"We've got our 100th batch of beer coming up soon, so we're planning to do something totally different for that. We're thinking a lager, since we pretty much only do ales. Oktoberfest, perhaps? We've also got the beer for the winner of our 1st Anniversary raffle coming up," he mentioned.
The winner got to help design a beer to have on tap. Their only request was that there were blueberries involved. Luckily, they've got a blueberry farm about 1/4 of a mile from the brewery! They'll be doing something out of their normal wheelhouse with that one as well. Also, fans of their white stout, White Riot, will be pleased to know that it'll be making a return soon(ish)!
On average, they brew about twice a week. Sometimes it's 3-4, sometimes it's only once. They've got four fermentation vessels, so it limits them to how many they can have going at any given time. Their total number of beers released to date is around 25.
"There aren't really any breweries that I don't like, but I'm particularly fond of Barley Mow, Angry Chair, Cycle, Cigar City, and Saint Somewhere's beers," he told me. "I also love Southern Brewing and Winemaking; I think they're criminally overlooked and under appreciated for their beer! I don't get out from the Rover too much, so when I do I try to make the rounds to all the breweries!" he said.
Advantages of a growing beer market
How has this helped The Wild Rover? First, there has been a dedicated group of beer people that have been hungry for something different and something local that have sought them out; and secondly, the explosion of craft beer, especially their local scene, has turned a lot of people onto trying new things.
"I think there is still plenty of room for more beer in the market, even in Tampa. I can't wait to see what some of the upcoming breweries have to offer!" he said.
We love visiting new breweries, and our resident beer nerd Chris loves Wild Rover and visits frequently. Want to try their cask ales or play a round of trivia? Visit their Facebook for all upcoming events and beer specials!