TBBN’s sincerest congratulations go out to Lisa Schneider Colburn of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Bay Area Barley’s Angels and Independent Owner Veronica Danko. On October 23, Wood Cellar Manager, Blender, and Sensory Specialist at New Belgium Brewing Company Lauren Salazar presented to the group about her efforts to revolutionize their sensory tasting programs and develop their barrel aging program. All the while, the ladies of Bay Area Barley’s Angels savored delicious New Belgium beers and gnoshed on stinky cheeses. Lucky. Hey Lisa, can I come to the next one on my press pass?
edit: words. Brouhaha was completely the wrong word to use here. 🙁
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.
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.”
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’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.
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.