On a sunny and humid Florida evening in Ybor City, just as the sun is setting over nearby Tampa Bay, rays of fading light touched on an elusive creature housed in a warehouse off of 2nd Avenue. This creature has been rumored for a while, popping up at odd times to refresh tired Tampans with an emphasis on quality ingredients and outstanding beer. This creature is the stuff of legend and while it has reared its head occasionally, the Coppertail has now settled in and made Tampa its new home.
Coppertail Brewing Company is a labor of love for owner Kent Bailey and brewer Casey Hughes, who have been waiting months to bring the brewery online and christen the former mayonnaise factory, olive cannery, and warehouse into its new life. The team Bailey put together to realize the vision of Coppertail has been undergoing construction, delays, and more construction in hopes of finally pouring forth frothy and foamy ales. As Bailey says on the company Facebook page, “Coppertail is dreaming of the impossible… like a couple of home-brewers putting everything on the line to start their own brewery. We believe in Coppertail. ” On August 20th, that belief gave life to a brewery and kicked off with Bailey tapping of a firkin of kumquat Free Dive IPA and saying a few words to a crowd of onlookers.
“We’re here. We have beer in the tanks… and I think we actually have a brewery going as of tomorrow.”
And that tomorrow is bright as a bona fide Florida sunrise: Coppertail Brewing has quite a bit of beer capacity to speak of, bubbling to life with a 50-barrel brewing system. Hughes will have his hands full keeping up with demand for Coppertail’s beers, but keeping up with demand is not new for Hughes. The native Floridian at the brewing helm of Coppertail worked his way through the Florida Keys brewing scene in the 1990s. Hughes then moved to New Jersey to brew at Flying Fish Brewing Company, win some awards, and to ultimately move back to the Sunshine State during its craft beer heyday.
Coppertail hosted a sneak preview of their core four beers on draft Wednesday, along with a surprise saison that would possibly rotate through the lineup.
Wheat Stroke: A hazy wheat beer that promises a nice bit of citrus with some light bodied fun. This has an aroma and flavor of bread, citrus, and some light fruit. Light in body this one starts citrusy and finishes clean.
Free Dive IPA: An aptly-named IPA for too many of these 6% beauties can certainly deliver a free dive. This one starts off with caramel and pine on the nose followed by bits of orange, grapefruit, and kumquats. The flavor does not disappoint with noticeable caramel backbone behind an assertive punch of tropical fruit, pine, grapefruit, and ‘quats. Nice body and a citrusy finish to this wellspring of hops.
Unholy Trippel: This one is called Unholy for a reason: the alcohol is definitely there, but goes virtually undetected. This beers is a devilishly big beer that hits the palate like a light-bodied lullaby. The nose is aggressively hoppy for the trippel style and gives citrus and tropical fruit to an otherwise hop-mild style of beer. The flavor does not disappoint as the hop bitterness pushes through the flavor and into the finish. The caramel, apple, and sweet malt in the body let you know this is a trippel, while the hops make it drink like a session IPA. A true monster, this one was well-named and should come with a caution label.
Night Swim Porter: Night Swim pours as deep as the Bay on a dark summer night: black with dark foamy waves. The aroma starts with black coffee and earth followed by sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, and then some cacao nibs to round it off. The flavor delivers on the promises the nose makes. As dark waves of chocolate lap against the palate, Night Swim delivers a dark chocolatey and roasty porter with depths of flavor from nose to finish.
From start to finish, Coppertail’s lineup has a beer for every taste and a taste for every beer. Look for Coppertail to begin shipping kegs into distribution the last week of August 2014 and expanding outward from their first accounts as soon as they are able. Bailey says that Coppertail will add a few more accounts each months as well as a few new beers to the special release calendar, including a Stone Crab Stout (made with real stone crabs), a Berliner Weisse, and a French Saison. Like the mythical beast itself, Coppertail Brewing is quickly becoming a reality in the Tampa craft beer scene.