In my last update back in October I whined about how we were still waiting on all sorts of regulatory approvals. Our progress seemed frozen. Right after that post the ice started to break. I’m pleased to report we are now seeing movement on lots of issues that were slowing us down.
First, the day the government shutdown ended we received word that our Federal Brewer’s Notice had been approved. That’s right, we are no longer just four guys hanging out in a warehouse and making beer. Now we’re four guys hanging out in a warehouse making beer and paying lots of federal beer taxes. According to the Feds we are officially a brewery.
Next we had to go to a couple hearings at city hall to ask them to ‘wet zone’ our warehouse. Wet zoning is required any time a business wants to sell alcohol to the public. Without the wet zoning we can’t operate a tasting room. Without a tasting room our new brewery would be dead.
Approval was not a sure thing. This warehouse is a pretty big area to zone for alcohol sales, and it’s in a part of Ybor where there’s currently no alcohol being served. Maybe the surrounding homeowners and businesses would argue against us. Maybe the city officials would decide there’s enough alcohol up on 7th in Ybor, and they didn’t want any of it spreading to the neighborhoods and industrial areas of southeastern Ybor.
After explaining the project and sitting through two different 3-hour hearings, however, our hard work and patience paid off. No one argued against us. The city council liked our plans. We were rewarded with unanimous approval of our wet zoning. I think the city understands the good things local craft breweries can bring to a community in terms of jobs, tourism, and neighborhood pride. Thanks, City Council!
Also in October, our brewmaster, Casey, was asked to judge the Great American Beer Fest in Colorado. The four of us headed out there for a few days of beer tasting. We sampled some delicious offerings from 7Venth Sun, Swamphead, Due South and others in the Florida section. Some of the longest lines at the festival were in front of the tables for Cigar City and Funky Buddha. Way to go, guys! Cigar City took a gold medal in the Pro-Am competition for their Poblano beer. Casey’s Octoberfest from his previous brewery took a silver medal. It was an amazing experience to see so many great beers and talented brewers in one place. We look forward to going back next year with some beer of our own.
Just after we returned from GABF we got to serve up some early prototypes of our beer at Richard’s Run 5k in Ybor. Runners were given drink tickets and had the choice of spending them on industrial mass produced lager at one table, or Coppertail at our table. Would anyone want to try this tiny new beer company? A line quickly formed at our table and grew longer and more crowded as the night went on. I was especially pleased to see the same faces several times as people scrounged for more beer tickets then waited in our line again. We ran through all our beer and had to close down early. We were sorry to disappoint the late comers, but it was thrilling to see people enjoying the beer. We’ll keep you posted on where and when we’ll be serving next. In the meantime we’re working on brewing up more.
Currently, our biggest obstacle is in getting the permits we need to build out the brewing area and tasting room. For a couple weeks we’ve been told we should be getting the permits any day now. We need to get started on that work immediately if we’re going to stay on schedule for a March opening. The people at the city have been kind and are working with us, but I just hadn’t realized how slow this process moves. Cross your fingers that we’ll get those permits in hand soon, or we won’t have anywhere to put all our brewing equipment when it arrives in late December.
Speaking of equipment, our brewhouse manufacturer in Germany has asked us to come look at the brewing equipment before they finish it up. If any changes need to be made, it’s best to figure that out before it leaves their shop. It’s a tough job, but Casey and I have agreed to fly over to Munich this week and take a look. We’ve had this system on order since March and I’ve been dreaming of the day we finally get to see it. I can’t wait. Keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds for pictures and updates.
When I write my next update let’s hope we have our permits in hand and are working like crazy to get this old warehouse renovated!