The sign out front bears a simple message: Craft Brewery.
Shoved between a national-chain sandwich shop and a cabinetry wholesaler, just outside the southern border of the Ybor City Historical District, Tampa’s Bastet Brewery goes unnoticed only for those who have not yet visited.
Once inside the space on Adamo Drive near 21st Street, it’s easy to forget the strip-mall setting. With exposed ventilation shafts and unstained wooden furniture, Bastet offers the industrial-rustic aesthetic common in craft taprooms with one major exception: a massive mural of Bastet, the warrior goddess of ancient Egyptian mythology.
“We didn’t really want to be just another pub environment,” says cofounder Tom Ross. “We were looking for something that would set us apart. Being fans of beer, we started learning the history of beer. The first large-scale brewing culture on earth was the Egyptians.
“For the Egyptians, beer was a way of life. It was for the young and the old, the rich and the poor. Beer was nutrition. Workers were paid with rations of beer. And that history led us to the story of Bastet.”
The namesake legend begins when Ra, the falcon-headed sun god and king of the Egyptian iconography, became angry at humankind’s lack of devotion to him. He sent Bastet, his cat-headed daughter with the goddess Isis, to seek his vengeance. But she developed a blood lust, and the deities began to worry that no one would be left to worship them. So Ra covered a battlefield with pomegranate-tinged beer, which Bastet mistook for blood and consumed. She became drunk and fell into a deep slumber, and humanity was saved.
In addition to the Egyptian vibe, many of the beers have international inspiration. Bastet brews a tepaché, which is a Mexican street beer with fermented pineapple, and in the past had a millet beer, a style popular across Africa.
The brewery’s artwork was conceived and created by cofounder Huston Lett, who met Ross when both were on staff at a local law firm. After a few years in a homebrewing club and a few more years with Cigar City Brewing—plus a few years on the festival circuit—the duo felt ready to open on their own.
The original business plan was described by area brewmasters with whom Bastet consulted as “one of the best they’d ever seen,” says Ross. “We had a great plan, but COVID came around so you might as well throw that plan out the window.”
The pandemic interrupted taproom build-out and delayed brewery equipment deliveries, so the duo took a much more hands-on approach. They built the 28-foot polished-wood bar by hand and finished the exposed concrete floors and handled all of the painting, including Lett’s mural.
The setbacks also affected production in the five-barrel brewhouse, however, so when Bastet Brewery opened its doors mid-November 2020 it was as a tasting room with 25 guest taps from local breweries—and none of its own beer.
“With us being behind on production, money was going out the door instead of coming in the door,” says Lett. “We needed to start getting butts into chairs while we were creating our beers. It was a tough decision. But we got our own beers on tap pretty quickly after that. And we’re pushing out new beers daily or weekly.”
Bastet now has more than 20 of its own beers on tap, with more in production.