Monthly Archives: May 2013

Red, White, and Craft Brews Fest: A Patriotic Beer Event

Confessional time: I’ve been to more beer festivals than I care to admit. Few are fantastic, a large percentage just border on mediocrity, and some are just plain bad. Profit seems to be the motive rather than spreading the craft brew gospel in the worst examples. To be honest, rarely am I impressed by a suds centric event anymore.

On Saturday, May 18th the 2nd annual Red, White, and Craft Brews Fest was held at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL. JJ Taylor’s patriotic sounding and looking event was the cap to American Craft Beer Week. My better half, Lisa, and I decided to go on a whim and caught the last half.

Red, White, and Brews Festival 2013

Located just a few blocks off of Ulmerton Road, it wasn’t the easiest to find. Thankfully signs pointed the way and Lisa was more than happy to help navigate. Outside we were greeted by a cool helicopter and other military armament along with a nice lady who welcomed us and rung up the reasonably priced ($25) tickets.

As we walked inside, there were a couple of rooms with military uniforms, guns, bayonets, old infantry hats and the like. All of the displays were professionally done and genuinely interesting. Some pieces went all the way back to Revolutionary War, along with plenty from the Civil War, and from wars thereafter. When valuable drinking time is sacrificed to look at anything, particularly educational, it’s a testament to quality and coolness.

Military Stuff at Red, White, and Brews 2013

Down a darkened hall was the entrance to the tasting and as we walked toward the door it felt like we were in a war zone. Combat sounds filled the air and along with more gnarly displays-it was reminiscent of a scene out of Platoon. Halloween would be a great time to visit; I would imagine as it would be a little eerie.

Oftentimes, beer events are held in a big cavernous room or an open outdoor area. Merely on a hunch, we figured that we had pretty much seen the extent of the museum and that the tasting room would be just a large generic room without a great deal of character. Surprisingly, the exhibits continued and served as a backdrop for the brewery serving tables. To see a military tank above the beer rep while they’re pouring that sweet nectar is memorable.

Red, White, and Brews 2013

So, yeah-we really dug the locale but an awesome setting is nothing without remarkable beer. Many of my favorite breweries made an appearance including Oscar Blues, Lagunitas, and Sierra Nevada. Local celebrities Cigar City and Saint Somewhere made the trek as well. Special edition offerings are always big hits: Stone Brewing Co.’s Espresso Russian Imperial Stout was a rock star and Brooklyn Brewery’s Silver Anniversary Lager really grabbed my attention.

Other event details like parking and plenty of restrooms were more than adequate. Lines were short, possibly because of limited tickets or perhaps the local beer geeks were just too burned out or at least mildly hung over from American Craft Beer Week. People can often add (and sadly detract) to these parties. Ryan, a member of the Brandon Bootleggers Homebrew Club that I belong to attended and it was nice to talk shop with him (Ryan’s also a contributing author this this site — Ed.). Sam Adams had a beer rep that was dynamite and really displayed phenomenal customer service while the Left Hand rep was beyond entertaining.

Sam Adams rep at Red, White, and Brews 2013

Red, White and Brews really did it right and I couldn’t recommend it more. History buffs should explore the museum sans suds and beer aficionados will not want to miss next year. I am impressed.

Three Palms Brewing

This is what I’m talking about. It’s about the community, family, and the “Big G“, not just great beer. Three Palms has all of that it in spades.

When I walk into Three Palms with little notice on a Wednesday afternoon, there’s Randy, holding his little girl and welcoming us with open arms. I had a little time off from my day job, so I took my wife to the movies and then over to Three Palms Brewing and tasting room for a quick meet up. It was perfect timing, too. Mick from the Beer Box in Sarasota was on his way up. A two-fer. New friends, good beer, and my wife at my side. What could be better?

Randy immediately offered me a sample – his Imperial Stout. “I turned up the temperature on the cooler to get a little extra flavor out of it.” It worked – a nice mouth feel that comes from beer served at just the right temperature, and plenty of flavor to this one. It’s a great representation of the style. As Randy’s futzing with the CO2, he startles his darling daughter who’s just getting ready to take a nap – a baby taking a nap in a brewery: I love it. He stops and gently snuggles her back to sleep. Then it hits me: here’s Randy, micro-brewer extraordinaire, being an awesome dad AND brewing fantastic beer. This is what its all about.

Building a dream, one brew at a time.

Building a dream, one brew at a time.

As we talk about his experiences growing up from homebrewing, Randy’s prepping for his tasting later that night – fresh kegs of Imperial Stout, Milk Stout, Saison, and his Sour. The glassware is clean and sanitized. Everything’s just right.

Randy started home brewing about five years ago. He’s been a member of Tampa Bay BEERs and Brandon Bootleggers. It didn’t take him long to realize that he wanted to make a career out of this. Fast forward to July 4, 2012 and here’s Randy brewing Three Palms’ first batch of beer: Queen of Wheat, his take on the traditional German Hefeweizen.

Three Palms has been in its current location on the Northwest side of Brandon, about half-way between Brandon and Tampa for about a year, and like other brewers around here, he’s growing – but his vision is not just for his beers. “I want to have beers from other Florida breweries, too.” He’s got big plans for 16 more taps in addition to the four he currently operates – 20 in total. When I ask him what’s missing in the Tampa Bay beer scene, his only response: “more breweries with more tasting rooms.” He’s right – there’s something about having beer in the place it was made. It’s the epitome of local.

As we’re talking about future plans, I bump into a fermenter holding a hundred or so gallons of his latest brew, his Saison. What’s coming up for Three Palms aside from the growth in the number of taps? That’s easy. More beers on rotation. When I ask Randy if he has a vision of Three Palms being known for a particular style, he gives me the quote of the year, and a little insight into the challenges that up-and-coming brewers face: “Every beer I put out there can be good enough to be someone’s favorite beer.”

Randy from Three Palms Shows off his Fermentation Room

Randy from Three Palms Shows off his Fermentation Room

The problem he faces is the same one that brewers throughout the ages have faced: if one of his styles becomes so popular that his customers start demanding it, he’ll have to dedicate more of his tiny 3 BBL brewhouse capacity to delivering on that style. And he’s not ready to do that, just yet. There are so many more styles to explore! With just of 300 BBL of production planned for 2013, Randy’s still tiny in the craft beer scene volume-wise. But he’s hanging in there.

Randy’s not just about trying out new styles, he’s a mentor to homebrewers in the Bay area too. In April Randy chartered a Belgian Dubbel competition and invited area homebrewers to participate. The winner will collaborate with Randy in the development and naming of a new style for Three Palms. He received over 20 entries, just what he was hoping for. The winner of the competition will see his or her beer on the taps in Three Palms’ new tasting room after the expansion later this year.

Randy’s meeting with the Hillsborough County Commissioners on July 22nd to seek a zoning variance that would allow him to expand to the 20 taps he has in his vision. “I’m looking for community members to come out and support Three Palms – anyone that has anything positive things to say will help our cause.” Even if the scheduled hearing doesn’t go well, Randy is still planning a brewery expansion.

Mick Cohn from the Brew Box in Sarasota ambles in about this time. Mick’s an affable guy with a sharp wit and a great sense of humor – and he loves this beer. And Mick’s love of the beer is just one of the reason’s for Three Palms’ expansion. Everyone loves it.

Randy Reaver (Three Palms) and Mick Cohn (Beer Box)

Randy and Mick ham it up for the camera.

Randy’s got a barley wine brewing this week. It should be done in about 6 weeks. I know where I’ll be then. If things keep going well for Randy, I don’t think he’ll have a problem with the variance he’s seeking. I think his only problem will be how long it takes to get bigger equipment.

Three Palms Brewing is located at 1509 Hobbs Street in Tampa. It’s really between Tampa and Brandon, east of Falkenburg near the new Taco Bus. Check out their Facebook page: Three Palms Brewing.



Brandon’s Regency Theater to get a MacGuffin’s

Looks like Brandon’s going to get a new watering hole within the next 30 days or so – the AMC 20 Theater in Regency Square is getting a MacGuffins.

The MacGuffins concept is simple: watch a movie, drink a beer and eat a meal. I just hope they have some craft beers, too. Prices are about $10-$15 per plate.

The unfinished MacGuffins bar in the AMC 20 Regency Square movie theater.

The unfinished MacGuffins bar in the AMC 20 Regency Square movie theater.

Coppertail Brewing Company logo

Coppertail Brewing

Coppertail Brewing Pilot Brewhouse

Coppertail Brewing Pilot Brewhouse

I wasn’t prepared for this. I was expecting two guys in a part of a run-down warehouse, not two guys trying to fill an entire run-down warehouse. Also, I’m nervous. It’s my first interview with an honest to goodness brewery.

I showed up on a lazy Monday afternoon at Coppertail’s new-to-them digs just on the North side of Adamo drive near IKEA. I almost missed the place. Kent’s instructions to “just park on 26th” led me to believe that there would be street parking, or maybe a parking lot. But there wasn’t. Once I hit 2nd avenue, I knew I had missed it. As I reversed back down 26th towards Adamo into one of the half-a-dozen spots in a covered parking area, I saw it: the sign on the door. In letters barely 2 inches tall: “Coppertail Brewing Company”. That is the only small thing in this place.

Robb arrived at the highly secured front door and showed me into the offices, which felt as if they had only been renovated yesterday. In reality it wasn’t yesterday, but a few months ago. Think grey and neutral colors. This doesn’t feel like a brewery. It feels like a tech startup. There’s very little furniture. There are boxes from office supply stores and Grainger on the floor. Plans on conference room tables. On a windowsill in the conference room (they have a massive conference room!) is the only sign of beer: a design comp for a label, and a bottle with said comp realized and printed onto it.

Kent walks in and invites me and Robb to join him for his afternoon beer break. And this is how it begins: insight into the minds of two guys on a mission to put it all on the line and make their living doing what they love. It’s not cliché because it’s real: these guys are doing it. After a few handshakes and introductions, we’re on our way.

The first stop on our tour is the storage facility, which currently houses the keezers keeping the pilot batches and secret ingredients ready for sampling. Kent explains that their first few years in operation will be dedicated to bottling, because it’s the most cost effective way for them to get started. This massive space – probably at least 5,000 square feet, and only a small fraction of the rest of the facility – will hold the bottles, cardboard, and eventually cans needed to keep them bottling at capacity. Also it’s a lot easier to add a canning line later than additional brewhouse capacity later. Something about adding more pipes, drains, and the like. More on that later.

Kent sneaks away to a second keezer and comes back with a silvery Mylar bag the size of a lap dog. It’s not labeled, and still sealed. Kent has a devilish look in his eye: “These are some hops Casey wants to experiment with.” He gently tears the bag open. Air fills the bag and I get the faint scent of citrus and grass: those are some incredible hop pellets. We all take huge drags off the bag, relishing the heady scent. I actually bite into a few. It’s a good time.

Casey Hughes, fresh off his job as head brewer at Flying Fish in New Jersey, is Coppertail’s head brewer. Kent and Robb can’t speak highly enough of him. Casey’s coming down this summer and while he’s known for his Belgian beers, that won’t be their focus here at Coppertail. Pilot batches are still fermenting, but there is talk of lagers, bocks, and amber ales, with some wild stuff thrown in to keep it fresh; but the word of the day is balance. They’re striving for balance in their lineup.

Balance is not something these guys inherently have. Seriously, I’m beginning to think they’re a little nuts. They’re going all in. They both love beer so much that they’re giving up their careers, personal lives, and fortunes to open this place. They have graduated from home brewing directly to regional brewing. They came up with the scratch to get into a 50 barrel brewhouse with plans to brew up to 15,000 barrels in the first year. That’s not a typo. It takes a lot of space to brew 15,000 barrels of beer. Coppertail has it.

The second part of our tour takes me to the home for the brewhouse. It’s more than 10,000 square feet of covered area. You could literally build two or three single family homes under this roof, it’s enormous. But people aren’t going to live under this roof, at least not for shelter, maybe for beer. This will be 10,000 square feet of just brewing and fermenting equipment. Kent’s a little disappointed that they weren’t able to place their order for the brewhouse until April; they had originally planned to order it in February, but just couldn’t make it happen then. With the delay on their side and all of the demand for brewhouses from craft breweries opening up around the country, Coppertail is facing a six-month lead time on theirs. In the mean time, they’ll keep brewing pilot batches, building a base, and honing their craft.

The space next to the brewhouse is even bigger: nearly 15,000 square feet. Robb and Kent have big plans for this space too: parking, huge windows into the brewhouse, and access to a rooftop biergarten. By my calculations, Cigar City at its birth could fit into this building alone twice: and there are three more buildings.

Cigar City, home to Tampa’s Patron Saint of Beer Joey Redner, isn’t looking at Coppertail as a competitor. As a matter of fact, Joey and Kent have been in touch. The unwritten pact: produce good beer and we’re going to get along just fine. Bring down the craft in this area, and we’ll have problems.

The craft for Coppertail begins with Robb Larson. Robb is your prototypical beer-geek. As a matter of fact, he is Taylor Eason’s beer blogger. This guy knows his beer. Every style you can think of: he has brewed it or thought about brewing it. Robb hails from Minnesota and his passion is beer, but his profession was personal trainer. That’s how he met Kent.

Kent Bailey is (or rather was) a business attorney. Kent faced an existential crisis, as many of us do as we reach that certain point in our lives. Kent found happiness while tailgating with Robb at the Trop, drinking a home brew. As the first pitch was thrown, so was Kent: he didn’t want to leave his beer behind. He found his passion and it wasn’t just drinking beer.

Ever the capitalist, Kent took the lead and began assembling resources: the building; the brewer; the plans and permits. Robb brings the beer experience and vision. Both gave it all up to start this brewery. And talk about stories: theirs is just beginning.

Coppertail Brewing plans to officially open before the end of 2013. Brewing starts in earnest this summer. Stay tuned to TBBN as we watch this fledgling brewery take shape.

Tampa Bay Tapped

Tampa Bay Tapped

Tampa Bay Tapped is a volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to taking all that fantastic craft-beer energy you have and turning it into social good. You can help too – just join them for an event!

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kendra Greseth, Social Media Director for Tampa Bay Tapped in April. Kendra’s one of the public faces of this incredible charity-focused, not-for-profit organization and Tampa Bay Tappedhad plenty to say about the great things they’re doing in the community. – JGT

John – So Kendra – tell me a little about Tampa Bay Tapped – how did you get started, what is your purpose, and what do you do for the community?

Kendra – Some of the people in Tampa Bay Uncorked who really like beer got the idea to create a new group, focused on beer as much as Tampa Bay Uncorked is focused on wine, to promote local charities and turn the group’s creative energies into good for the Tampa Bay area. We’re also very interested in beer and Tampa’s growing beer scene, and this group helps us keep in touch with the local beer community. We started in 2011 and have run a few events since then with some great success.

John – How do you support charities? I mean – how does love for beer translate into social good?

Kendra – So basically we’re taking individuals who share a passion for beer and bringing them together in events that benefit local charities. For example one of our first events was a Pub Crawl back in January – we organized the event, set up the logistics, etc., and raised nearly $5,000 for the Children’s Cancer Center.

John – Wow, that’s impressive. How do you select your charities?

Kendrafirst and foremost, the charities must be local. We want to benefit our local community and the best way to do that is to find charities with local roots and help local people. We’ve worked with Suncoast Hospice, the Children’s AIDS Foundation of Tampa Bay, Sunken Gardens, and the Children’s Cancer Center to name a few. Anyone can recommend a charity, but in order to work with us you have to help plan and execute the event!

John – Kendra, that’s awesome. Tell me more about your events – are they all pub crawls?

Kendra – No, actually that was just one of the events we do. We just finished an awesome brewery tour through Cigar City, Rapp Brewing, Barley Mow, Dunedin, Saint Somewhere, and Big Storm.  Basically we chartered a bus, set up special tours, and took people around to meet the brewers and the learn more about them.

John – When’s the next event?

Kendrawell the Tampa Bay Tapped leadership is doing double duty with Uncorked as well, so right now we don’t have any events planned until this summer – we look forward to another pub crawl, this time on the Tampa side, and another brewery tour after that! We are excited to have been asked by Florida Beer Company to volunteer for the Beer Bites and Brushes event taking place this Friday, May 17th and provided with the opportunity to name the benfitting charity, The Children’s Dream Fund!

You can reach Tampa Bay Tapped on or through their Facebook page at


Saint Arnold Brewery Lunch

Saint Arnold.

Saint Arnold.

There are at least three Catholic Saints associated with beer-making. One of them, Arnulf of Metz (depicted with a mash rake in hand) is responsible for for the legend of the beer mug – a never-ending supply of beer. The legend goes something like this: a group of his parishoners went searching for the hermit Saint’s body in a rough and tumble land. Parched, they prayed to Saint Arnold and miraculously their steins were filled with beer. Sounds like a nice guy, huh?

Saint Arnold’s memory lives on at the Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston, Texas. Every week day from 11am to 1:15pm chef Ryan Savoie prepares an incredible prix fixe menu. Not only is the food plentiful and delicious, but in true Saint Arnold fashion the glasses of beer are never empty.

Friday’s lunch was carbonade flamande, or for the less Flemish among us, beef stew. Made with beer. Served with frites and a side green salad with a homemade vinaigrette.

Delicious lunch at the Saint Arnold Brewery.

Delicious lunch at the Saint Arnold Brewery.

So the stew: it was incredible: thick enough to stick to your ribs, savory and delicious. Fork-tender cuts of beef, mushrooms, onions, and carrots float lazily in the gravy. An island of sour cream and a dollop of coarse spicy mustard went along for the ride.

The french fries are light and airy with a perfect crunch and just the right amount of salty-goodness.

As far as salads go, this one was pretty good – a variety of greens, carrots, fresh croutons, cucumbers, and a fantastic house-made vinaigrette lightly applied and perfectly seasoned. I only added a little dash of pepper to the salad, otherwise it was perfect.

Not only was the food delicious, but the beer was incredible, too. I tried the Santo and the Elissa. I’ve never had a Kölsch before, and was pleasantly surprised. Both were eminently drinkable. I’d even consider the Santo to be a sessionable beer – it felt pretty light. The Elissa however was probably most similar to our old favorite Jai Alai – a great balance of sweet malts and grassy hops. Good old Saint Arnold would be proud.

The lunch didn’t stop there however – we also had a chocolate torte and a strawberry short cake, both house made and incredible. The Elissa was a perfect match with the torte. Words can’t describe the foodgasm that was had that day.

The brewery itself is housed in an old Houston Independent School District industrial kitchen or administration building or something like that. Basically its a massive old factory building. Brick. Tall ceilings. Old staircases and windows and stuff. Lots of character.

2013-05-03 11.12.41

Downstairs is the brewing operation while upstairs are some massive mash tuns and an incredible beer hall. (By the way, words don’t do this place justice, so check out the incredible Google Maps interior rendition!) Like everything else in Texas, the place is massive – apparently official seating for over 200 people, communal style.

All in all – it’s worth the $20 that you’re going to spend, especially if you consider that you’re going to get to try some great beer too.

The brewery is located at 2000 Lyons Avenue just north of downtown Houston Texas. Check their website for current menus and stuff: