Tart, Funky & Weirdly Refreshing reads the label for The Realist, a summer seasonal from Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing. The description is perfect, as there’s a good chance you’ll know if this beer is right for you based on that alone.
The Realist is Coppertail’s take on a niche style popularized by Colorado’s Trinity Brewing, whose Red Swingline ale took a sour pale ale as its base and bombarded it with dry hops, creating what ultimately established itself in the beer world as the "sour IPA."
St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing was the first to run with it locally, pouring its version of the sour IPA called Surrealist, which was of course an inspiration for Coppertail’s Realist. In fact, if you look closely on the beer’s label, you’ll see a scuba diver resting on an old bench that would presumably be green if not for the monochromatic color scheme.
Artist Evan B. Harris’ label takes the theme a step further, riffing on Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, a famous work by Édouard Manet. The beer stats on the label even suggest pairing the beer with a "luncheon on the grass" — the English translation of the painting’s title.
Label-art and beer-name Easter eggs aside, The Realist is the perfect summer brew for drinkers looking beyond fruit beers and classic lighter styles. At 4.8 percent alcohol by volume, the beer is highly sessionable, while boasting enough complexity to warrant repeat visits.
Descriptors like "tart" and "sour" tell part of the story, but The Realist comes with a suggestion of flavors beyond lemon acidity. It’s sparkling clear, with a quickly-dissipating head, giving it the appearance of a glass of sherry.
The nose is musty and a little funky (as advertised), with a hint of juicy grapefruit. The flavor isn’t far off from biting into a fresh, tart plum, if without most of the sweetness. There’s a spicy woodiness in the background derived from birch, which the beer is aged on, that adds a layer of sincere complexity. It’s not in your face, but it’s bold enough to play a major role in the overall palate, pitting stone fruit and citrus against a dry malt base and savory wood notes.
Luncheon on the grass or not, this is a summer beer through and through. Check it out on draft a Coppertail’s tasting room, or find it in 750ml bottles at your local beer store. It’s a June-September seasonal, so you have plenty of time to pick apart the beer’s intricacies.
— Justin Grant
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