Trellis at Buchman joins Ybor City's thriving beer scene

On a Friday afternoon in December, Joel Bigham is inside Trellis at Buchman, his new beer and wine bar in Ybor City, taking measurements to hang a mirror before he opens for business. 

Being a small business owner means being a jack-of-all-trades and your own handyman, Bigham says. He takes a break from his work to discuss the thriving Ybor beer scene. Bigham rattles off the names of some of his favorite brewers working in Ybor’s historic district - Paul Rutherford at  Zydeco Brew Werks, Jim Barrie of BarrieHaus Beer, Doug Clark with the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. On top of a brewery scene that rivals downtown Dunedin, there are craft beer bars with impressive selections of beers from around Tampa Bay, the state and the country. 

With Trellis at Buchman, Bigham, who was co-owner of the popular Fermented Reality Biergarten at Sparkman Wharf, adds to the unique flavor of the Ybor beer scene.

“My specialty is showcasing beer from around the world,” he says. “I’ve got Paulaner Munich lager on tap number one. It’s one of the best beers in the world hands-down for any beer-drinking guy. If you want a beer-flavored beer, this is one of the best. I have stuff in cans from Germany, stuff in bottles from Germany. I do the Belgian thing too. I’ve got St. Bernardus Abt 12. It was a mainstay for me at the biergarten and followed me over here. It’s easily one of the best beers in the world. I’ve got a couple of different Belgian options in the cooler. I try to keep a mix from around the country and around the world.”

Trellis at Buchman opened in November in the restored, historic building at 1910 E. Seventh Ave. that is named for the Buchman Department Store, which opened there in 1914. In the 1990s, the building was home to the Blues Ship Cafe, a venue for live blues music. More recently, it was home to Ybor Live. 

​​​​Joel Bigham says he’s focused on giving Trellis at Buchman a “brighter and lighter" look and feel than other bars in Ybor City. Bigham says he’s focused on giving Trellis at Buchman a different feel and look than most Ybor City bars- “brighter and lighter” instead of “dark and dim.” It is well-lit and decorated with plants. The walls are painted in light colors. Bright plant and flower patterns, with some tigers mixed in, adorn the wallpaper in the restrooms. 

With Trellis at Buchman, Bigham has expanded beyond beer to offer a top-notch wine selection. He’s also had a kitchen put in and plans to add food service next year. He expects to announce the future food concept at a grand opening event in January. 

This is Bigham’s third venture in the beer business. Years ago, the proud beer geek was laid off from a job in corporate America and vowed to never go back to that world. He found out that Craft Beer Cellar on State Road 60 in Brandon, a beer shop he frequented, was up for sale. He bought it and turned it into FR Bottle Shop. 

After establishing his reputation with FR Bottle Shop, he was approached about opening a biergarten at the former Channelside Bay Plaza, which was being transformed into Sparkman Wharf by the developers of Water Street Tampa. In late 2018, Fermented Reality opened as one of the original businesses in Sparkman Wharf. The business was an immediate success but Strategic Property Partners, the Water Street developers, decided in August 2021 not to renew its lease. Bigham also closed FR Bottle Shop after sales took a beating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Plans have been in the works for the Ybor City location since 2021. The initial idea was for it to be a sister location to the biergarten at Sparkman Wharf. After Fermented Reality closed, Bigham’s partner in that venture divested and he carried on as a solo owner. 

Now, he’s excited to be part of Ybor City, a historic and iconic neighborhood he sees transforming thanks to new businesses, new development and new residents.

“I love Ybor City,” Bigham says. “Seventh Avenue is one of the most popular spots for tourists in all of Tampa Bay.  And Seventh is growing up…Seventh Avenue is going to change a lot in the next several years.”

For more information, go to Trellis at Buchman
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.