"I like to drink beer.”
That’s Casey Hughes’ mantra; the Coppertail brewer says it several times over the course of a tour of the Ybor City brewery’s still-under-construction facility. His more than 20 years of brewing have done nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for downing a beer or three. It’s what drives him to create new twists on classic styles.
“I love big, hoppy beers, but you know, I love Belgian beer, too.” he says. “We’ve got great beers like that around here, Saint Somewhere, 7venth Sun. So I’ve got some neat American twists on Belgian styles, things I’m playing with.”
Coppertail Brewing Company is one of the most highly anticipated new brands in the area, and Hughes is one of the main reasons. He relocated to Tampa about a year ago to help put the company’s brewing program together after a decade at well-regarded Jersey brewery Flying Fish, and has had some impressive beers aging in barrels at the unfinished Coppertail HQ for nearly that long.
“We’re going to open with some farmhouse styles that have been aged a year already,” he says. “That was always the plan, to have some good, funky beers on opening.”
Though the facility has seen some delays since construction began, Hughes says there will be a temporary tasting room open on the premises before the end of August. He’s been putting in long hours on the system and the recipes, but says he’s glad to be back in Florida — his first brewery job, at 18, was in Key West — and manages to get some time outside the brewery that doesn’t involve shoveling snow. He mentions New World Brewery, The Independent and The Pour House as favorite spots to visit, and also seems excited about the recent emergence of so many new breweries around the Bay area.
“I think it’s really cooperative,” he says. “I actually had the Cigar City guys in here yesterday, and I let them borrow my hop cannon to test out. Green Bench has been really helpful. I helped them install some equipment, and they returned the favor.”
One of Hughes’ favorite brewing techniques involves working to lower the alcohol content of full-bodied beer styles without sacrificing flavor or quality. While many people began drinking craft beer specifically for the high ABV (alcohol by volume) count, there’s a rising interest in less-boozy beers, sometimes called “session” beers, among true aficioinados who want to be able to drink several brews while hanging out, without getting too loaded to actually enjoy them. Few beer drinkers, however, know how difficult it is to produce a lower-ABV version of a bold or hoppy beer without altering its character dramatically.
Some lucky locals have enjoyed one or more of Coppertail’s four core brews at special events around the area, but Hughes promises an array of flavors for visitors to try when the tasting room opens, including some of these finely wrought lower-alcohol offerings.
“It’s just great to be able to enjoy more than one or maybe two at a sitting,” he says. “Because, well, I just like to drink beer.”
Favorite local beer that’s not his: “Colliding Galaxies [double sour IPA] from Green Bench, that’s a great beer. I also like Cycle’s Fixie [session IPA] a lot.”
His signature Coppertail beer: “The Unholy, our tripel. My tripel is really dry, but I basically dry-hop the hell out of it, two additions of big American hops so it has a neat, hoppy aroma, some fruity, tropical flavors."
Coppertail Brewing Co.
2601 E. Second Ave., Ybor City