Florida Craft Beer: Coppertail Brewing Co.

    By Stephen Kubiak

    You’ve heard of beer and food pairings. How about beer paired with authentic Florida experiences? Join us as we explore the state through the flavors of Florida’s craft beer culture.

    The view from the brewery’s balcony unfolds like a slideshow of Tampa’s transformation over the years. On one side are industrial warehouses that make up the southern border of historic Ybor City and on the other, an Ikea store sits like a blue behemoth just a few hundred yards away. The balcony is far enough away from the elevated Selmon Expressway for the cars to sound like rushing wind, bisecting the view of the Downtown Tampa skyline. The brewery sits on the edge of where old and new Tampa seemingly converge, a theme echoed on the taps inside. It’s a place where classic beer styles and time-honored brewing techniques mix with rogue experimentation and radical ingredients. This is Coppertail Brewing Company.

    From mild to wild, you'll find a wide range of beer styles and flavors at Coppertail

    From mild to wild, you'll find a wide range of beer styles and flavors at Coppertail

    - Stephen Kubiak for VISIT FLORIDA


    Founded in 2014, Coppertail Brewing Company is the passion project of brewery president Kent Bailey, a former attorney who was looking for a change.

    “I was doing really boring stuff,” said Bailey of his days as an attorney. “On the weekends, I was brewing beer and I found myself working for those weekends thinking, ‘How can I make this my job?’”

    Enlisting the help of brewmaster Casey Hughes, who couldn’t even sample his product when he began his career as an 18-year-old at the now-defunct Key West Brewery, Bailey was ready to take what he calls “the biggest risk of his life.”

    “It was easy to convince Casey to come down,” said Bailey. “He’d already lived here once, he knew that he loved Florida and that he was looking for a way to get back down here.”
     

    Casey Hughes, Brewmaster at Coppertail Brewing Company

    Casey Hughes, Brewmaster at Coppertail Brewing Company

    - Stephen Kubiak for VISIT FLORIDA


    “I’d been wanting to move back to Florida for years,” said Hughes with a laugh.

    Tampa is the heart of Florida’s craft beer movement with over 60 breweries in the area and craft beer giant Cigar City Brewing Company at the helm. Knowing that Tampa had one of the most mature beer markets in Florida, Bailey chose to open his brewery at the edge of the city’s most famous neighborhood.

    “I always loved Ybor City,” said Bailey. “There’s more visibility, more visitors here than any other place in the city. Also, the history of area is amazing.”

    Once Bailey had a location, he needed a name.

    “The name of the brewery came from my little girl, Sophia,” said Bailey. “I was struggling for a name for the brewery and she was telling me about this Coppertail sea monster that supposedly lived in Tampa Bay. It got stuck in my head and it sounded good. I talked to Casey and he didn’t hate it, so I ran with it. What really connected me to that name was the fact that it’s impossible for a sea monster to live in Tampa Bay. It’s crazy. The fact that it’s crazy and impossible, to me, resonated with what we were trying to do with the brewery. We’re doing something crazy, but we believe in it.”

    Adorned in what Bailey calls “industrial chic,” the taproom is spacious, yet inviting, drawing you towards the long wooden bar. Beyond the taps, windows open into the massive brewery, a cavernous vault lined with fermentation tanks where beers are brewed on a scale from traditional Belgian to Willy Wonka-esque.

    The brewery produces four core beers year-round and a number of limited beers throughout the year. The year-round brews include more traditional fare – Free Dive IPA, Unholy American Trippel, Night Swim Robust Porter and Wheat Stroke American Wheat Ale, all of which are bottled, something not often seen in Florida craft beer. For the adventurous beer drinkers looking for unique Florida flavors, there’s Pie Till You Die, a Berliner made with mango and key lime, or the seasonally-produced Captain Jack’s Stone Crab Stout made with locally-caught stone crab claws. It’s a rich, chocolatey beer that has a slightly salty flavor.
     

    Bottles of Coppertail Brewing Company's four core beers

    Bottles of Coppertail Brewing Company's four core beers

    - Stephen Kubiak for VISIT FLORIDA


    “We used 150 pounds of stone crab claws,” said Hughes. “After we were done, we put them out in the taproom for everyone to eat.”

    “We’re such a new beer culture that you’re seeing weird and non-traditional things take off here, like the Florida Weisse and Berliner Weisse,” said Bailey.

    “There’s a lot of out of the box thinking when it comes to brewing here, where people aren’t held back by tradition,” said Hughes. While some of the beer ingredients like cara cara oranges and hibiscus are unusual, water, Hughes notes, is the most important. It’s perhaps one of the reasons Sophia’s fabled Coppertail sea beast chose Tampa Bay for its perch.

    And if you want to search the waters surrounding Tampa Bay in an effort to seek out the mythical Coppertail, there are a few ways you can go about it that are less than 3 miles from the brewery.

    Along the edge of Downtown Tampa, where the Hillsborough River meets Hillsborough Bay, there are several local outfitters that can get you out and exploring the waterways. With Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboarding, you can rent a paddleboard, take a paddleboard fitness class or go on one of their paddling excursions. If you feel like you still need the exercise, but would rather sit down, the Tampa Bay Water Bike Company rents out water bikes that you can pedal up and down the Hillsborough River while following the Tampa Riverwalk.

    With little effort, cruise the Hillsborough at 5mph. Peddle faster and feel the breeze while enjoying the city’s skyline.

    With little effort, cruise the Hillsborough at 5mph. Peddle faster and feel the breeze while enjoying the city’s skyline.

    - Visit Tampa Bay

    eBoats Tampa is an ecologically friendly way to experience the downtown Tampa waterways

    eBoats Tampa is an ecologically friendly way to experience the downtown Tampa waterways

    - Visit Tampa Bay

    If you’d rather the boat do all the work, eBoats Tampa is a great way to explore the local waterways in an ecologically friendly way. The boats are electric, so they’re quiet - perfect for sneaking up on the Coppertail.

    If you go...

    What: Coppertail Brewing Company
    Where: 2601 East 2nd Ave. Tampa, FL 33605
    Phone: 813-247-1500
    Web: http://coppertailbrewing.com

    What: Tampa Bay Water Bike Company
    Where: 333 S. Franklin Street Tampa, FL 33602
    Phone: 813-465-8025
    Web: http://www.tampawaterbikes.com

    What: Urban Kai Stand Up Paddleboarding
    Where: 700 S. Florida Ave. Tampa, FL 33602
    Phone: 813-598-1634
    Web: http://www.urbankai.com

    What: Tampa Bay Water Bike Company
    Where: 333 S. Franklin Street Tampa, FL 33602
    Phone: 813-767-2245
    Web: http://eboatstampa.com

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