This is the first of what will be a weekly installment highlighting the craft beer scene of Florida State's opponent. The format will feature a beer from a local brewery that best represents the Noles' weekly opponent. We will then go on to highlight a brewery that we feel you should definitely give a look if you happen to ever be passing through or are supporting the Seminoles on the road. Without further delay we present to you craft beer in Tampa Bay.
It wasn't much more than five years ago that you could count the number of breweries in the greater Tampa Bay area on just one hand. The industry has since exploded and you can now find over 30 breweries within 30 miles of downtown Tampa. When I think of what beer best represents the University of South Florida I cant help but think of a brew from Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
Why you ask? Two reasons, first they were one of the few that were around the last time USF experienced any relative success and secondly they don't do many beers well but every once in a while they surprise you with something excellent. The beer we are highlighting is the their Reef Donkey APA which is described on their website in the following way...
Dry-hopped American Pale Ale made using a secret selection of hops to give this nice dry beer a lemon/lime aroma and citrus & slight tropical fruit flavor. Although this brew Hits the classification of an APA, it drinks like a session IPA perfect for a day on the boat fishing the reef. Reef Donkey is slang for the Greater Amberjack gamefish which inhabit our coastal wrecks and reefs.
I really enjoy Reef Donkey as it comes in a 16 oz. cans much like I enjoyed the Bulls victory in 2009 that eventually forced a change in leadership for Florida State which led to the tremendous success that fans have been able to experience over the past three plus seasons. With its easy drinking 5.5% ABV I can easily put down a four pack while enjoying any type of activity. You can find Reef Donkey in most liquor stores in the greater Bay area, visit their brewery in Ybor City or their newest restaurant in the Oldsmar area.
Now on to the brewery and I know most of you are thinking the obvious choice is Cigar City. Well we are not going there and it is not because they aren't great, they are. They are absolutely the best brewery in the Bay Area and one of the best in the country. If you get the chance to stop by I strongly encourage you to because they have been doing excellent beers in the past year, their one offs have been brilliant and their core lineup is as solid as it gets.
I want to introduce you to Coppertail Brewing, a brewery that is entering just its second year of operation but has burst on to the scene in a large way. First off their brewery is absolutely gorgeous, they were blessed with some serious financial backing and went all out on their tasting room and production line. Located in Ybor City it is easy to get to, Coppertail is across the street from Ikea so letting the wife or significant other shop while you enjoy some great beer couldn't be easier.
The core four at Coppertail can please any body's taste, the Porter and Wheat Ale are very respectable while their 9.5% Triple is not boozy, fruity with the perfect amount of Belgian yeast. Free Dive IPA is the beer that really stands out for me, of all the India Pale Ales brewed in the Tampa Bay area I find myself drinking this one the most. It is a bright, citrusy IPA, light on the malt that drinks almost like a session, find yourself a six pack and challenge yourself not to finish them all in one sitting. Beers that make your mouth pucker have been all the rage in the past year, whether it be a Gose, Berlinerweisse or a Sour. The crew at Coppertail is doing it well with their impressive lineup of Berlinerweisses.
These of course are not the only breweries that you should visit if you make the trip. On the Tampa side of the bay I would suggest you stop into Southern Brewing, Angry Chair and of course Cigar City. Make the trip across the bridge to Pinellas County and you would do well at Rapp Brewing, Green Bench and my favorite, Cycle Brewing. Travel north of St. Pete and visit some of the area beer pioneers in St. Somewhere, Dunedin and 7venth Sun Brewing.
Unable to get your hands on any of the above mentioned beers, that's okay, we would love to know what kind of beer you will be enjoying this weekend as Florida State takes care of business against South Florida.