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Brewery Update 21 – Limited Bottle Release

We finally got our bottling line working.  Now that we can bottle our beer we have two releases to tell you about:

The Core 4 on display at  Craft Beer Cellar, Brandon .

The Core 4 on display at Craft Beer Cellar, Brandon.

First, we released our first six packs into distribution this week.  Our core four: Free Dive IPA, Unholy American Trippel, Night Swim Porter, and Wheat Stroke Wheat Ale are in bottles and already popping up around town.  We’ve heard reports that they’re on sale at ABC, Craft Beer Cellar Brandon and Total Wine.  Our six packs are only on the Tampa side of the bay for now, but within the next 30 days we hope to offer them on the St. Pete side, too.

 

Seasonal Relief, Baltic Porter

Seasonal Relief, Baltic Porter

And, tomorrow, Sunday the 21st we’ll do our first limited bottle release ever at the brewery.  We’ll release around 150 bottles of our holiday beer called “Seasonal Relief” in 750ml bottles.  It’s a Baltic Porter brewed with Goji berries and fermented with true lager yeast.  Rich and roasty with hints of fruit and 8.5% alcohol, it’s sure to put you in a festive mood.  We’ll sell it during our normal tasting room hours starting tomorrow at noon.  Priced at $10, limit two per person.   Spread some holiday cheer.

Also, in case you can’t make it to our tasting room we’ll send a very small number of these bottles out into distribution on both sides of the bay.  Keep an eye out.  They may pop up in stores right around Christmas.

Other cool stuff on the horizon:  Our Cigar City Collaboration Russian Imperial Stout, Sabotage, is almost ready for release.  You’ll probably see it some time in January.

When is your tasting room going to open?  Our new tasting room is scheduled for a late February opening.  Our temporary tasting room is currently open 7 days a week.  4pm to 11pm Monday through Thursday.  2pm-midnight on Saturday.  Noon to 7pm on Sunday.  Come on by and grab a beer.

When can I buy your beer outside the Tampa Bay area?   We don’t know.  We’ll keep you posted here and on social media as our distribution footprint expands, though.

Thanks for all your support in 2014.  We wish you a holiday season filled with peace, love, and great beer.

Cheers!

-Kent

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Brewery Update 20 – Let There Be Beer!

MMMMMM. Whole leaf hops (and Casey.)

MMMMMM. Whole leaf hops (and Casey.)

2 years of hard work, 20 somewhat monthly blog updates and we’re finally here: The Finish Line.  Or, maybe it’s the starting line.  This week we release our first shipments of beer to local bars.

The first emotion to wash over me is relief.  We definitely hit our share of delays and set backs and at times it seemed like it would never happen.  It would have been easy to give up.  I’m glad we didn’t.

My second emotion is gratitude.  There’s so much to be thankful for.  I’m thankful for the team we’ve built at the brewery.  It has taken a lot of people, pulling together toward the same vision to make this brewery happen.

Also, thank you to all the people who have supported us along the way – all the good people we’ve encountered at beer fests and pop-up tastings who’ve talked beer with us, the people who have followed us and encouraged us via social media, the other local brewers who have been so generous with their time and advice.  The local craft beer scene here in Tampa really is an amazing and supportive place.

And, my last emotion is pure excitement for this next chapter.  Let there be beer!

Speaking of the beer, to celebrate the release of our core lineup we’re planning a Coppertail Launch Tour.  At each stop our beer will be on tap.  We’ll drink some beer, give away some swag, and Casey will slow dance with you.  (Or you can just talk brewing with him.)  Come on out and help us celebrate.

Coppertail Launch Tour Dates:

Aug. 21 – The Independent, Seminole Heights. 6pm – 9pm
Aug. 25 – New World Brewery, Ybor City. 7pm – 10pm
Aug. 26 – The Dirty Shame, Ybor City. 7pm – 10pm
Aug. 27 – The Stein and Vine, Brandon. 7pm – 10pm
Aug. 29 – The Pour House, Downtown. 7pm – 10pm
Sep. 2 – Mr. Dunderbaks, North Tampa. 7pm – 10pm

What about the tasting room, you ask?  Good question.  We’re installing our tap system this week and racing the clock to open the door to our temporary tasting room by the end of the month.  A more permanent tasting room will open around Novemberish.  We’ll be sure to announce it on social media when it opens.

They love beer... so should you.

They love beer... so should you.

Thanks for checking on us and we look forward to drinking a beer with you soon!

– Kent

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Brewery Update 19 – Countdown to Beer

Casey tries one more time to fix something before just smashing it with that big red mallet.

Casey tries one more time to fix something before just smashing it with that big red mallet.

There’s no getting around it.  We hit a few more delays.  I could tell you our tales of woe – water got into our grain conveyor and turned our grist to glue on the way to the mash kettle, a batch of yeast decided to go on strike and quit, a burglar broke into the brewery one night and stole all our tools, then some pumps broke but we didn’t have the tools to fix them. (Don’t worry, we got plenty of video of the burglar and he was brought to justice AFTER he’d  already sold all our tools.)

I could go on about all the mishaps that have befallen us, but that won’t get the beer into your glass any quicker.  The bottom line is, we’ve been working through a few hiccups on the new equipment and we’re almost ready to start releasing beer.

 

Signage by SBC Signworks helps keep everything looking sharp but also helps you identify the tanks during a brewery tour. We want those things to be educational  and  fun.

Signage by SBC Signworks helps keep everything looking sharp but also helps you identify the tanks during a brewery tour. We want those things to be educational and fun.

Our latest schedule is as follows:

End of August: We’ll start getting draft beer out to local bars.

Also, we’ll open a small, temporary tasting room so people can gather for tours and taste the beer.

September:  We’re planning another free pop-up tasting and it’s shaping up to be the best one yet.  Keep an eye on our social media for details.

November:  We’re scheduled to open our real tasting room and throw a grand opening party.  (You’re invited.)

 

Dave. taking a big ol' yeasty swig of unfinished beer.

Dave. taking a big ol' yeasty swig of unfinished beer.

Also, in November we hope to start getting our bottled beer on a shelf near you.

In the meantime we’ll keep brewing on our small pilot system, and working hard to get the big system up and running.  We hope to see you at a local beer fest or tasting soon.

Cheers, and, as always, thanks for keeping an eye on us.

– Kent

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Label Sneak Peek – Night Swim Porter and Wheat Stroke Wheat Ale

We just got a couple more label drafts back from our artist, Evan B. Harris.  As I mentioned in the last article on this topic, working with Evan has been really fun.  It’s always exciting to see what he comes back with as a visual after we’ve communicated the idea behind a beer to him.  He never draws it the way we imagined it, but his way always turns out better.  (I guess that’s why he’s the artist and we just make beer.)

We told him that our porter is called Night Swim because something about it feels like a dip in the warm gulf waters at night.  I’m not sure why, but it works in our heads.  We hoped it would work in Evan’s too. Here’s what he came back with for a label:

A couple caressing a miniature boat in the water at night while smoking a hobbit pipe and pouring beer down a shark’s throat.  Makes perfect sense!   Somehow, it does seem to capture the right feeling.

And, finally, we asked him to work up something for our wheat ale, Wheat Stroke.  We mentioned to him that we thought it would be a great outdoors in the heat beer – the kind of beer you’d want after going running on the beach, or hanging out in the sun.

Evan’s interpretation:

Wheat Stroke New.jpg

One runner guy being refreshed by a conch shell wielding mermaid while a pelican with headphones serves as an impromptu ice chest.  Again, we loved it.  I’m not sure if that runner guy is going to sell any beer, but the illustration is fun for us to look at.

So that’s what our bottled beer will look like.  We’re working hard to try to get them on shelves near you this fall.  We hope you’ll recognize it when you see it.

On the brewing front, we are officially brewing on the big system now.  There’s a brew going on in the back as I type.  There have been quite a few hiccups (a leaky vessel here, a faulty part there) but it seems that we’re getting all the kinks ironed out of the system as we go along.  We still think we’ll have some kegged beer made on the big system out in the market by the end of July.

In the coming days we should have a pretty good idea of what our tap handles will look like, too.  We’ll get sneak peeks of those out to you soon.

Cheers, and, as always,  we appreciate you checking in on us.

– Kent

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Label Sneak Peek – Unholy Trippel and Free Dive IPA

We’re on track for a first brew on the new equipment by the end of this week.  And we’re moving full steam ahead with bottle label development.  We just got two label drafts back from our artist and we’d love to share them with you.

We aim to create labels that stand out from the others on the shelf.  We really don’t care if they appeal to everyone’s artistic taste as long as they look unique and distinctive.  We wanted to find an independent artist who could create artwork that would complement the hand-crafted and off-beat nature of the liquid inside.  We found exactly what we were looking for and more when we linked up with artist, Evan B. Harris.

Instead of just illustrating what we’ve dictated to him, Evan has become a true collaborator on the visual identity of our beer.  Plus, he’s been great fun to work with.  We contact him with an idea like, “Our Trippel is a little too easy to drink and high alcohol, so we call it Unholy Trippel.  Can you create something for that?”  Then he comes back with illustrations like the one below:

Blammo!  One unholy looking monk-like figure complete with totally unrequested stowaway rat band and Coppertail sea-monster.  We love it and we can’t wait to get these on the shelf.  (We already put this one on T-shirts)

Our IPA clocks in at just under 6% alcohol with low bitterness and huge amounts of hop aroma.  It’s our hot day, out on the water IPA.  We call it Free Dive.  Here’s what Evan came up with:

One free diver with a lobster on his head sitting in front of an underwater TV, eating octopus, while a partying fish and puking seahorse hang out nearby.  Makes perfect sense, right?  Not sure why, but somehow, it feels right.

We should have early drafts of a couple more bottle labels by the end of the week.  Stay tuned for more sneak previews.  We look forward to getting these bottles on a shelf near you this fall.  Thanks for checking in on us.

Cheers!

-Kent

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Brewery Update 18 – So close we can (almost) taste it

Where there is steam, there shall soon be beer.

Where there is steam, there shall soon be beer.

2 years of hard work and we’re finally here: cleaning tanks, and testing the new system.  That means we’re close.  Real close.  Our first real brew on the big system is scheduled for next week.

When do we open?

That’s the question that we hear most often now, the question that haunts us in our sleep.  Here’s our current timeline:

Mid-July:  We’ll have kegged beer rolling out the door to select local bars.  (Remember to start asking your bartender about us.)

August:  We’ll open a small, temporary tasting room at our brewery to give visitors someplace to drink a beer and gather for a tour.  (Details on exact date and hours of operation to follow.)

November:  We’ll open our permanent tasting room and throw a grand opening party.  (We’ll announce more info on this as soon as we know it.)

What kinds of beer are we going to make?

Thanks in large part to your feedback at pop-up tastings and beer fests we’ve finally picked four favorites out of our pilot beers to form our core lineup.  These are the four beers we plan to start selling to local bars next month:

Our first grain delivery!

Our first grain delivery!

1. Free Dive IPA – 5.9%:  A bright malt backbone paired with loads of citrusy hops.  Low bitterness with an intense Citra, Azacca hop aroma.  With alcohol under 6% and a super dry, clean finish, this IPA always leaves us wanting another glass.

2. Unholy Trippel – 9.5%:  Based on the classic Belgian Trippel originally brewed in monasteries but with a sacrilegious American hop character.  Fruity, funky notes from the belgian yeast combine with west coast hop aroma to provide a smooth drinking beer that packs a punch.  This has been our most popular offering at almost every beer fest.

3. Night Swim Porter – 5.7%: Rich and roasty with Cocoa nibs in the boil.  Bold flavor notes of chocolate and coffee.  Because sometimes you just need something dark and decadent.

4. Wheatstroke Wheat Ale – 4.8%:  Maximum use of wheat in the grain bill with hints of Florida citrus and a touch of corriander in the boil.  Designed for hot weather crushability.

If you’ve come to any of our pop-ups or fests, thanks for you input.  We hope you’ll find something you like in the lineup.  If you don’t see one of your favorites there don’t worry.  We plan to release a number of special beers throughout the year like our Oyster Stout, barrel-aged brett beers, etc.

Assistant Brewer, Derrick Gough, and his wife, Erin Gough, serve up beer at a local beer fest while some weird guy crowds into the picture (on the left.)

Assistant Brewer, Derrick Gough, and his wife, Erin Gough, serve up beer at a local beer fest while some weird guy crowds into the picture (on the left.)

If you haven’t had a beer with us at a fest, yet, why not?  We’ll be at the Bad A** Beer Fest in Oldsmar June 28th.

Stay tuned in the coming days for some sneak peeks of our bottle label and tap handle designs in progress.

We can’t wait to brew up some beer for you!

-Kent

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Brewery Update 17: Brewhouse (nearly) Installed

The brew house, two months ago.

The brew house, two months ago.

Two months ago I wrote, “Tomorrow the trucks will begin lining up.  Tomorrow there will be ropes and pulleys, chains and hoists.  Tomorrow there will be spitting and cursing, sweating and shouting.  Tomorrow we build a brewery.”

There were only two days worth of shouting, spitting, and cursing (mostly by Casey) and then, miraculously, all the equipment was safely tucked safely away in the brewery.  The successful load-in was due in large part to Derek, JT, Terry, and Randy from Superior Rigging.  (Thanks, guys!)  They brought in the heavy equipment and maneuvered our tanks delicately into place.  No one got hurt, and nothing was damaged.  I’d call that a success.

The brew house today!

The brew house today!

Next a team of welders trained by the manufacturer descended upon the brewhouse.  They spent over a month diligently connecting piping.  (I was amazed by the amount of pipe that needs to be run.)

Then, specialized workers arrived to setup the grist mill.  They’re also working on getting glycol (cooling system) to the fermenters, connecting the boiler to the brewhouse, connecting air lines to the pneumatic valves, and getting all the electric stuff wired up.

We have water flowing to the brewhouse, and we expect to have electricity, gas, and sewage hookups completed any day, now.

Miles and miles of piping.

Miles and miles of piping.

The bottling line arrived.

The bottling line arrived.

By the end of the month we hope to have the new brewery totally installed and ready for testing.  In early May we’ll test the system and do some brews with water and cleaners.  Also in May we hope to do some test brews with actual beer to see how the recipes are scaling up to the big system.

Which leads me to the most asked question right now:  When do we open?

We expect to open our temporary tasting room and start shipping draft beer to local bars in June / July.  We plan to have bottled beer on shelves and open our real tasting room in September / October.

Our newest team member, Teri, serving beer at an event.

Our newest team member, Teri, serving beer at an event.

Until then, we hope you’ll come see us at an event or at the next free pop-up tasting.  (I’m not allowed to give any more details on the next pop-up tasting yet, but watch our social media for an announcement.)  In the meantime we’ll be pouring at Creative Loafing’s Spring Hops.  Use the code  BREWCODE to get $5 off admission here: http://cltampa.xorbia.com/springhops

Cheers, and thanks for checking in on us!

-Kent

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Kill the Big Beer Bill HB1329

My fellow Florida craft beer fans.  The craft beer community needs you.  You may have noticed that craft beer is growing at an amazing (or alarming rate) lately, while at the same time, sales are dropping for the mass produced industrial light lagers.  This trend has the big beer people worried.  So much so, in fact, that the big beer distributors have just convinced Florida House Rep Ray Rodrigues to introduce a bill (called HB1329) into the FL House of Representatives that would severely damage the future of our community.

House bill 1329, if ratified, would do the following:

Overall, the bill seems targeted to squash the really small craft breweries that operate tasting rooms but don’t distribute much beer to bars or retailers.  This bill is bad for local small businesses, destroys jobs, and hurts tourism and our economy.

“That’s awful!” you say.  “I love the craft beer community here in Tampa Bay.  I wish there was a way I could help that would be totally free and take less than 30 minutes of my time.” You, my friend, are in luck.  Cause there is a great way to help.  Right NOW is a pivotal moment in the legislative process.  This HORRIBLE, craft beer killing bill is about to be reviewed over the next week by an important committee that has the power to kill this bastard, demon spawn of a bill before it has a chance to draw it’s first breath.  If we all act NOW we can help convince the committee reviewing it that they should kill it.

Here’s what we all need to do: (Free, less than 30 minutes, effective)

First, Call the leaders of the committee and tell them to kill HB1329.  I just finished calling them all, and the staff members are really nice, so be polite to them.  You just tell the staff member who answers that you are against HB1329 and they make a note of it and pass along that info to their boss.  Or you leave your statement against HB1329 on the answering machine.  Easy!

  • Rep. Debbie Mayfield, Chair (850) 717-5054
  • Rep. Greg Steube, Vice Chair (850) 717-5073
  • Rep. Darryl Rouson, Ranking Member (850) 717-5070

Step 2:  Follow that up with a quick e-mail.  Two communications counted = twice the influence.  Just push the “e-mail representative” button here:

That’s it!  Three quick phone calls.  Three quick e-mails.  Suddenly the leadership of the committee reviewing the big beer bill will start hearing that voters hate this bill.  Our legislators really do listen to what voters want, but you have to tell them.  If you love craft beer please stand with us and help safeguard the future of the craft brewing community.  You can’t complain if you don’t make your voice heard, now.

P.S.  If you’re really fired up you can contact the entire committee that will be reviewing the bill here:

http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committeesdetail.aspx?TermId=85&CommitteeId=2723

 

-Kent

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Brewery Update 16: D-Day

I write to you today on the eve of D-Day.  Not the invasion of Europe, but Coppertail Brewing’s Co.’s own D-Day, the Delivery Day for our brewing equipment.  Tomorrow, trucks bearing giant steel tanks and metal containers full of equipment to build our brewhouse will begin off-loading their contents whether we’re ready or not.  Our focus the past few weeks has been making sure the brewing equipment has somewhere to go.  The building has to be ready.  We needed new concrete floors, trench drains, a protective and sanitary floor coating.  We were even missing the basics: walls, a roof, and water and sewer connections.  We had serious doubts about whether it could be done in time.

The building, one month ago.

The building, one month ago.

A moment ago I stood in the new brewing building and surveyed the slightly tacky, still drying floors; the block walls with black, wet mortar; the new steel paneling that’s still missing a few pieces; and I’m pleased to report we’re ready.  (enough)

And it’s a good thing, too.  As I’m writing this one of the D-Day trucks has arrived early.  It’s evening and we can’t unload the truck until the heavy rigging equipment gets here in the morning.  The driver, Rick, has parked his flatbed tractor trailer bearing one of our bright beer tanks behind our warehouse where he tells me he’ll sleep until morning.

A bright tank shows up early!

A bright tank shows up early!

Tomorrow the trucks will begin lining up behind him.  Tomorrow there will be ropes and pulleys, chains and hoists.  Tomorrow there will be spitting and cursing, sweating and shouting.  Tomorrow we build a brewery.

I’m glad Rick can sleep tonight.  I’m not sure I will.

Wish us luck this week.  We’ll need it.  We’ll keep you updated on how it’s going via twitter @coppertail and facebook.

-Kent

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Brewery Update 15: Our Erection

We’ve seen some exciting progress over the past couple of weeks.  First of all, the groundwater problem that had brought the project to a halt was fixed after we had some super smart engineer guys come out and tell us what to do.  Several days and several thousand dollars later we were clear to pour our footers for the new brewing building as planned.

Pouring concrete footers.

Pouring concrete footers.

Shortly after we started pouring footers a truck showed up with our new boiler on it.  The boiler will generate pressurized steam which will be piped into the steam jackets on our brew house for use in boiling wort and mashing grain.

Casey, a large human, stands in front of the boiler to provide perspective.

Casey, a large human, stands in front of the boiler to provide perspective.

It was terrifying to watch the delivery people hook chains and ropes to this expensive and delicate piece of equipment then hoist it off the back of the truck into the air.  There were a few agonizing moments when our new boiler was swinging and wobbling around, but it eventually landed safely in our warehouse where it will wait for the building housing the brewery to be finished (when it will be hoisted and swung through the air one last gut-wrenching time.)

 

A view of our building from Adamo.

A view of our building from Adamo.

With the footers for the new building poured, the erectors showed up to begin working on the erection of the steel building that will house the brewing equipment.  I’m amazed at how fast those guys work.  Next time you drive down Adamo past our site, you wont be able to miss the sight of the steel going up.

As our steel erection progressed, though, we took a close look at the calendar and realized we just can’t have the building ready by our originally scheduled equipment delivery date of January 20th.  We need time for concrete to set and protective floor coatings to dry.  Luckily, our equipment manufacturer was able to push the delivery date back a few weeks.  We’re now planning on a February 10th delivery date and a target opening date in April instead of March.  Delays are no fun, but we have to accept what we can’t change.

Wort kettle loading.

Wort kettle loading.

Speaking of equipment, Rolec finished building our brew house and snapped a few photos as they loaded it up for it’s long voyage across the ocean to Tampa, bay.  (If you like brewery equipment pics you can see more here.)  Soon those steel tanks will make beautiful beer in Florida.  Let’s all hope for calm seas and smooth sailing.  (Part of Lagunitas’ new brew house was demolished during shipment not too long ago.)

The ship with our first load of brewing equipment began it’s voyage on Dec. 25th.  The birth of the christ child and our brewing equipment heading out into the world on the same day?  Sounds like a good omen to me.

A group of good samaritans helped us drink up our extra beer at the pop-up tasting.

A group of good samaritans helped us drink up our extra beer at the pop-up tasting.

And, finally, we hosted a surprise pop-up tasting at our place the other day.  We announced the event 24 hours ahead of time on Facebook and wondered if anyone would show up.  We were thrilled to see so many people packed into our offices drinking beer and eating burgers.  I estimate the number of attendees through out the evening at 200+, although our accountant, Dave, says it was more like 80.  (You can choose which of us is better at counting things.)

Thanks to all who came out.  We had lots of fun meeting new people, and we appreciate hearing your thoughts on the beer.  We intend to continue to give our Facebook and Twitter friends special access to events and merchandise in the future.  Keep an eye out on our Twitter and Facebook pages for announcements.  We’re already planning the next pop-up tasting.

By the time I post my next update the building should be almost done.  (cross your fingers we don’t hit any more delays.)  As always, we appreciate you checking in on us.  May the new year bring you glad tidings and good beer.

– Kent

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Brewery Update 13: Permit in hand! Brewhouse First Glimpse

11/26/2013

It’s been an amazing past couple weeks here at Coppertail.  Let’s lead with the most important development:  WE HAVE OUR CONSTRUCTION PERMIT IN HAND.  That’s right.  We’ve been working on our renovation plans since summer to try to get that permit, and we finally got it!

Around the time of my last update we thought the city was going to issue our permit any day.  Then they said they weren’t because city water and wastewater had put a hold on it.  We started sweating.  You can’t start a brewery without access to water and sewers.  We have equipment coming, we’re paying rent, we can’t handle many more delays.  Then, suddenly, they lifted the hold, the clouds parted, the angels sang and we finally got our permit to finish the renovations to the brewery area.

I clearly recall Joe Redner writing in his blog years ago about how permitting had tripped them up and to allow extra time for that.  I want to echo that advice to any future brewing entrepreneurs.  Getting all the info the city needs is going to take much longer than you think.  Allow lots of time.  Then multiply that by 2.  Or 4.

The other big news in the past couple weeks is that Casey and I were allowed a brief conjugal visit with our brewhouse under construction at Rolec in Germany.  We were asked to visit, double check the plans, and advise them if any changes were needed before shipping.  Traveling to Germany at first sounded like an expensive and unnecessary boondoggle, but trying to make changes to equipment after taking delivery sounded even more expensive.  So we decided to go.  I’m glad we went because we did end up needing to tweak a few things.

Casey spent most of his time at Rolec in serious concentration, pouring over obscure symbols on the plans and comparing them with the pipes, welds, valves, etc. on our system in the workshop.  He had to ensure everything was in the right place and installed to his satisfaction.  With no commercial brewing experience, my roll was less demanding.  I spent most of my time at the workshop walking slow circles around the brewhouse, gently caressing the sleek steel vessels and moaning softly.  It was beautiful, and much larger than the 25 gallon kettles I’m used to.  Soon that collection of lifeless steel vats and piping will find a higher purpose, making beer.  I can’t wait to get it here to Tampa and fire it up.  Delivery and installation is currently scheduled for mid-January.  We won’t have to wait long to see it again.  Until then, we’ll keep brewing on my 25 gallon kettles.

So, in summary, the last couple weeks have been great.  We have our construction permit.  Our brewing equipment is looking good and almost ready to ship.  Things are starting to come together.  Now we just need to stay focused on getting our building renovations done on a very tight time table.  We’re still targeting a March 2014 opening.  Wish us luck.

Thanks for checking in on us.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

-Kent

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Brewery Update 12: Wet zoning / Feds / and more

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 SunSwampheadDue 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!

– Kent

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Brewery Update 11: A brewery is a state of mind

Over dinner with a friend recently I mentioned that we had just ordered kegs for the brewery. 500 stainless steel kegs delivered to our doorstep is going to cost us thousands.  (Take heed breweries in planning.  You need to budget big money for your own fleet of kegs, or use a keg rental service.  The distributors and bars definitely don’t provide those for you.)

My friend raised his eyebrows at our keg order.  “So you must have gotten your Federal Brewer’s License back.”

“No,” I said.  “Our application has been in for months.  Still waiting.”

“But you have your wet zoning?”

“Not, exactly,” I explained, “We got a unanimous ‘yes’ vote at the first hearing, but there’s one more hearing to go.”

“Well, you’ve at least got your permits to build this brewery, right.”

I shook my head.  “Not yet.”

His eyes widened.  “What the hell are you doing buying 500 kegs when you haven’t been approved for anything, yet?   What if they deny you? Are you insane?”

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I had to laugh.  Anyone who starts a brewery must be a little insane.  Every new brewery spends months, sometimes years operating only in the mind of the lunatic start-up brewer while he or she advances huge sums of money and effort to make it materialize.  It can’t be done any other way.

Take the federal brewer’s license.  It’s illegal to have a brewery without one.  But you can’t get one until you have a functioning brewery.  You simply cannot get pre-approval.  You just have to build a brewery and hope for the best.

Similarly, you can’t ask the city council to wet zone a potential property just in case you pick that location to start your brewery.  No, you have to pick a space, ask nice and cross your fingers.  And you can’t get permits to renovate until you’ve picked a building and produced detailed plans of what you’re going to do, by which point you’re almost certainly committed beyond the point of turning back.

And once you commit to buying some brewing equipment it may take up to a year to arrive, so you’d better not wait until your space is totally ready before you make that commitment unless you want to be twiddling your thumbs and paying rent in your finished brewery building for over half a year waiting for your equipment to come in.

So, no.  We don’t technically have a brewery, yet.  But, yes, we’re ordering kegs.  And we’ve already ordered brewing and packaging equipment, and contracted for hops and other raw materials and signed a lease and done lots of other irrevocable stuff that’s sounds alarmingly risky to most sane people.  We’re still waiting on our Federal Brewer’s License, wet zoning, and construction permits, but we have faith that we’ll gather all the necessary paperwork over the coming months.

We’re inching closer.  This insane dream may soon become a reality.

I almost forgot.  Progress update:

  • We passed the first city council vote for wet zoning to sell beer on the property last week.  The second vote should be coming up in a couple weeks.  So far so good. 
  • Our very own Dave Iwansky just turned 40!  Man, he’s old.
  • Casey, our Brewmaster, just finished a collaboration brew with Green Bench that will go on tap in their tasting
  • room, soon.  I hear it’s an IPA chocked full of Citra called Across the Bay IPA.

  • A band called Stages and Stereos shot a music video in our tore up old warehouse the other day.  We had fun drinking beer with them before the shoot.  We wish them well on the new album.
  • We’ll be serving beer at Richard’s Run 5k the evening of Friday Nov. 1.  Sign up now.  (You can even skip the run and just hang out at the finish line party with us.)
Casey, Khris and Steve enjoy wholesome refreshment after a long brew day.

Casey, Khris and Steve enjoy wholesome refreshment after a long brew day.

That’s it for this update.  We’ll be heading west next week for the Great American Beer Fest in Colorado.  More updates soon.

-Kent


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Brewery Update 10: Waiting is the Hardest Part

9/11/2013

That old Tom Petty Song has never seemed more true to me.  Lots of waiting goes on in starting a brewery.  

We are STILL trying to gather all the info the city needs in order to give us a permit.  As of yesterday, the last scrap of info they were asking for had to do with engineering wind and flood loads for the metal building that will house our brewing area.  We should get that info to them this week which means a few weeks after that we hope to get a permit.

The frustrating part is that the renovations to the building are all planned out, money has been set aside to make it happen, our contractor is anxious to get in there.  But until we get those permits in hand we can’t start turning the building into a brewery.  We’re still relatively on schedule for a Nov-Dec equipment installation and March opening, but the next few weeks will be crucial.

At least we’re seeing some progress on our wet zoning.  We’ve got our application in and a hearing before the city council this month will determine if we can sell beer on premises.  These signs recently popped up around the building.  Keep your fingers crossed for us.

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In the meantime we’re focusing on what we can do to help this brewery along.  We served our first beers at a festival ever over the weekend at Tampa Bay Beer Week‘s Halfway There festival.  We served a prototype of our IPA and Grizacca, an american twist on a Belgian Grisette style that Casey brewed up in Maine with our friends up at Oxbow.

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I was curious to see what kind of reception we would get, being the new guys on the local craft scene.  Would the more established breweries look down on us?  Would anyone taste our beer?  I shouldn’t have been concerned.   All the other brewers were super cool and friendly and the crowds kept our guys busy pouring until all our kegs were empty.  I loved both of the beers we served and they seemed well-received by the drinkers milling around, despite the fact that Casey accidentally named one of them after a villain from Power Rangers

We also got to taste some amazing and creative beers by the other local breweries.  There’s lots of brewing talent in Tampa Bay right now.  I love how everyone in this craft beer community pulls together and roots for one another.  It was amazing to talk to so many cool people and feel so welcomed.

Meanwhile we’re continuing to hone our recipes and work on beers using our 20 gallon pilot system.  We’re getting closer to finding our style as a brewery and narrowing down our opening lineup.  I’m still not sure what we’ll end up with but I’m excited about the direction we’re going.

We’re also getting started on our barrel program.  We’re working on filling them with beery goodness now.  With any luck, by the time we open in March we’ll have something good to drink coming out of those barrels. Since we got some shirts made we’ve been receiving cool pics like the one below.  

 

 

This one is from our friends at Granville Moore’s in DC, which is an awesome Belgian bar that was serving up Grizacca the other day. Keep the pics coming.  We love ’em!  You can send to info@coppertailbrewing.com

Thanks for following our progress.  We’ll update you again soon.

- Kent

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Brewery Update 9: Demo, Halfway and Wazoo

The last couple weeks have flown by.  The most exciting new development is that the demolition portion of the renovations is in full swing.

There’s REALLY no turning back, now!  We plan to knock down part of the warehouse in order to build a parking lot for the tasting room.  After so many months of waiting and planning it’s super exciting to see some physical progress.  We’re still working on getting permits for the work we need to do in the brewing area (Installing drains, boiler, upgrading electic service, adding gas service) and the permits for creating the tasting room.

We’re also excited to report we’ve been invited to participate in the Halfway There beer fest at the Cuban Club on September 7th.  Come by our stand for the only kegs of Oxbow Coppertail Grizacca in the Tampa Market.

Also, in fun news, Coppertail just had it’s first sighting on a restaurant menu thanks to the Grizacca.

And, we had a great time pouring beer with the Brandon Bootleggers Homebrew club and talking beer at the Wazoo beer fest recently.

Lots of test brewing still going on as we hone our opening lineup.

And thanks to the demolition we got a sneak peek at the view from our tasting room:

So, in summary, we’re still mostly playing the waiting game:  waiting on construction, waiting on some permits, waiting on equipment delivery.  But, we’re still on schedule to be ready for our equipment to arrive starting in November.  And, in the meantime we’re busy test brewing beer and trying to get some of our beer out there into peoples mouths.

Oh, yeah, and our ONLINE STORE is now open.  We had lots of people asking for T-Shirts so we opened it up a few months early.  The brewery isn’t done being built yet, but you can help spread the word.

Thanks for checking in on us, and we’ll write another update soon.

– Kent

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Brewery Update 7: The Brewer has Arrived

We’ve added another co-worker at the brewery since my last update.  Introducing Casey Hughes, our brewmaster.

Casey comes to us from Philadelphia where he was head brewer and director of production at Flying Fish in New Jersey.  After over 10 years at Flying Fish he wanted to return to Florida where he had started his brewing career, and be a part of the craft beer revolution going on down here.  You can read a more detailed bio here.  With his level of skill, experience, and passion for craft beer, I can’t imagine anyone better to lead production at this brewery.  We can’t wait to drink his beer.

So what else have we been up to the past couple weeks?  First of all, beer development is in full swing on our little 20 gallon homebrew system.   There’s lots of beer bubbling away in our fermentation fridges.  We hope to get some beer out there for people to taste, soon.

And, then there’s lots of tasting of previous batches to be done.  I never knew tasting beer could be such hard work, but these guys take the job pretty seriously.

Also, we’ve been trying to get out and talk to some other local breweries.  There’s an amazing spirit of comaraderie in Tampa’s craft beer community.  We honestly want to see each other succeed and take more market share from the giant industrial breweries.  Working together, I think we’ll do some amazing things in this town.

After meeting Khris at Green Bench in St. Pete, Casey was invited to help with the install of their beautiful new brewhouse.  Installation went well and we hear they should have some beer for us all to drink in September.

Speaking of equipment, ours is still on order and getting closer to being ready.  Our friends Jan and Uwe from Rolec flew out to meet with us recently and go over the drawing and designs of all the equipment.  They’re still on track to ship equipment to us in November.  Which means we have to get floor drains in and make a few other modifications to the building before then.  There’s still time to get it all done, but the clock is ticking.

Building renovations are moving forward a bit more as guys have started showing up and putting up framing for new walls.  Meanwhile we’re busy getting bids and trying to get permits on the other work.

That’s it for now.  Thanks for checking in on us and we’ll post again soon.

-Kent


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Brewery Update 6: Dave and a Port-O-Potty

Introducing the newest member of the brewery team, Dave Iwansky. 

We needed a little eye candy around the office so we brought my friend Dave in to keep the books.  I’ve known Dave since we were kids and there’s no one I trust more to watch over the money.  His past experience includes working in accounting for USA Today and the Airline Tarrif Publishing Company, both in the Washington DC area.  We lured him and his family down here with the promise of backbreaking physical labor in addition to the usual accounting stuff, and the occasional half priced beer in the tap room.

Dave is a numbers guy who is passionate about craft beer and excited about helping the craft beer community in Tampa grow.  Also, he sometimes likes to stick brewery stickers on his butt after drinking too much craft beer. See!? He really does this. 

The other big news is renovations are officially underway.  We even have a fence and a Port-o-potty to prove it. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a Port-O-Potty on our property.

Our friends at SALT Construction are working on some demolition.  Then, they’ll renovate the brewery area and build out the tasting room.  As I write this people are taking the fire sprinkler system in the back room apart.  We should have some dramatic progress  pics in the coming months.

And, on Dave’s first day on the job, he managed to hit one of the new fences, shattering his side view mirror.

Nice first day on the job for Dave. Don’t worry.  We do not intend to dock his pay for the damage done to the fence. Also, the planning stage of this brewery is just about done.   Our Architect-Extraordinaire, Joe Hafner just sent over some updated layout drawings.  Here’s a pic of the brewing area:

And Rolec, the company making our brewing equipment, just sent over some cool 3d imagery of what it should look like.

I sure hope Casey knows how some of this stuff works. Our friend Charlie Schiller, of Charlie Schiller design and Schiller’s Salvage recently stopped by and gave our office a complete makeover.  I’m sure the new energy of the office area will be reflected in the beer.  Thanks, Charlie!

Office area reborn thanks to Charlie Schiller. We almost look like a real company now.

Lots of things going on around here the last few weeks.  We might just make this craft brewery happen!  And, I envision, the next few weeks will be even busier.  Brewmaster Casey Hughes allegedly starts work on Monday.  I should be back with more updates soon.  Drink a cold one for me on the 4th and thanks for checking in on us!

– Kent

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Brewery Update 4: The Brain Trust

This was a big week at Coppertail.  All the architects, engineers, contractors, brewers, concrete experts, etc. met in one room this week to try to get the renovations kicked off.  With many of these experts being paid by the hour, it was easily the most expensive meeting I’ve ever had.  But it will be worth it if it speeds us up.   As you may recall, our equipment will start arriving in November, and we need to have this old warehouse ready to function as a brewery by then.

The Brain Trust in Action: Todd Whitworth, John Rosende, Robb Larson, Tom Dixon, Dave Fraser, Casey Hughes, Mark Benzaquen, and Joe Hafner figuring out how to build this brewery.

These meetings were so important, in fact that our brewmaster, Casey, chose to skip his honeymoon and, instead, fly to Tampa to meet with us.  Now that’s a man who loves beer!

We made some great progress toward getting this building ready during our meetings.  We discovered that our concrete floors can withstand 2-4 thousand pounds of pressure per square inch before they crack which should be more than adequate for our beer tanks. Wohoo!

And, most importantly, with brewers sitting in on the meeting we were finally able to answer all those little questions about the amounts and locations of steam, electricity, glycol, natural gas, etc. necessary for our operations.  Now we can move forward with filing our plans, getting our permits and getting those shovels moving.

This concrete floor is officially strong enough to hold tanks of beer.

All we need to do is upgrade our electricity, get gas service to our boiler, dig trench drains below the brewing areas, coat the concrete floors, raise part of our ceiling, fix up the walls and roof, repave one parking area and create another, and build out a tasting room.  And get it all done before the brewing equipment arrives.  I’m sure it will be a piece of cake.

While Casey was in town we made good progress planning out the beers as well.  We’re looking at a core lineup of 4 styles, with seasonals and special releases to be added later.  We want the first four to cover a good spectrum of beer flavor:  some hoppy, some malty, some easier drinking, some more intense, etc.  We want to be able to go through a beer tasting or beer dinner with our four core beers and have at least one in there that will appeal to just about any craft beer drinker.  Click here for the lineup.

The brewing experiments are multiplying.

Also, in recipe formulation we’re trying to stay true to the motivation behind this brewery.  We want to make beer that is balanced and flavorful.  Beer that you finish and want to drink another one.  Beer that tastes good in the Florida sun and fits our lifestyle.  We have a group of basic recipe ideas.  We’ll be tweaking them and asking for tasters over the coming months.

And, lastly, we bought a bottling line this week.  It’ll be delivered in 4-6 months.  Why bottles?  Why not cans?  That’ll be the topic for another post.

We are getting closer, inch by Inch.

– Kent

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Brewery Update 3: Spreading the word and Frozen Beer

As a brewery, we don’t really exist yet.  We have a dilapidated old warehouse and some equipment on order.  We have months before we can sell beer.  We haven’t done anything to promote ourselves or made any grand announcements or media stunts.  Yet people are finding us.  It’s a testament to the growing enthusiasm for craft beer in Tampa.

We got our first local media hit ever on Monday when John Tesmer of Tampa Bay Brew News came by to interview us and check the place out.  John’s a homebrewer who’s very excited about craft beer and was good fun to talk to.  He got a kick out of being our first “media” interview.

Then Jenn from the Brandon Bootleggers homebrew club invited us to come out to their monthly meeting Wednesday night.  We found the back room of a local restaurant packed with craft beer enthusiasts.  She asked us to say a few words.   What should we say?  We don’t have a carefully crafted marketing message.  So, we did the best thing we could think of.  We decided to just be us, a couple of homebrewers who are passionate about great beer, hoping to turn pro.  Just like many of them.

I offered up one of my homebrews in sacrifice to their beer judging skills and got some valuable feedback.  I also sampled lots of good homebrew.  At the end we stood up and told the group about our project.  It was great to connect with other people who care about good beer and we greatly appreciate the warm welcome they gave us. After that meeting, I’m more convinced than ever that Tampa is on the verge of hitting a critical mass as a craft beer town.

In other news this week, our friends from Roy Farms sent us some new, experimental hops to play with, named only with a weird combination of letters and numbers.  You may glance briefly at this picture of hops, but try not to stare at it.  It’s top secret.  We’re looking forward to brewing up some test batches with it soon.

Also, we’ve been working on providing tons of information to the federal government in hopes that they will one day say we’re allowed to sell beer.  They’ve been asking me to answer weird questions like, “Describe the amount and composition of all liquid wastes produced during your processes along with procedures you have in place to monitor the effluent.”  I started to write about our restrooms before Casey told me I had misunderstood the question.

Iced Beer Anyone?

And, probably my favorite moment of the week, we accidentally froze a beer solid during fermentation.  Anybody know if ale yeast can survive freezing temps?  We’ll find out soon.

And, of course, we’re still working on getting the building renovations going.  We had roofers out here today working on our leaks.  We’re still hoping to finalize site planning this month and get some real progress going.

Happy Friday everybody and thinks for checking in on us.  I’m heading to Datz in Tampa to sip a cold beer.  Cheers!

– Kent

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Brewery Update 2: Equipment and Concrete

This past week brought a few exciting developments.

First, after months of deliberation, and negotiation we FINALLY signed our official equipment purchase contract for our brewing equipment.  We had already reached a verbal agreement earlier in April that got our order into the queue.  (With all the new craft breweries springing up in the U.S. all the major equipment manufacturers seem to be running 6-10 month lead times.  Yikes!)  But it was nice to see it all in writing, so we could sign on the dotted line and finally put that issue behind us.

We hope our equipment arrives in November and if we’re really lucky we may still hit our goal of producing some beer on our new system by the end of the year.  My fingers are crossed.

The second exciting bit of progress was when an engineering firm showed up and started drilling holes in our concrete floors.  It turns out before you put giant steel tanks full of liquid on an old dilapidated concrete floor it’s a good idea to make sure the floor can support lots of weight.  We don’t want our shiny new tanks tumbling to the ground the first time we fill them up.  (Although the ensuing beer tsunami would be undeniably cool to watch.)  So far the core samples look encouraging.  We’ll learn more when we get the report later.

Robb and I could not be any more anxious to get our building renovations going.  We can’t start the renovations until we have permits and we can’t get our permits until we submit a site plan, and we can’t finish the site plan until someone can answer all the little questions like, “Where exactly is the steam boiler going to go?  Where will all the steam piping and glycol lines run? ” All questions I can’t answer off the top of my head.  I thought we could figure a lot of this stuff out as we go along, but apparently the city doesn’t roll that way.

We’ve planned a meeting later this month with our architect, engineer, and our fearless brewmaster, Casey.  Together they should be able to annihilate any question the city can throw at them.  The clock is ticking.  The equipment arrives in six months.  We have to get those shovels moving.

– Kent

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