Thursday, August 16, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Copperheads brings craft beer craze to Safety Harbor

Main Street in Safety Harbor has one of those cool little downtown areas dotted with shops, restaurants and bars, similar to other downtowns in the bay area: Davis Islands, Gulfport, Palm Harbor and so on. Each of these has a bar in which to enjoy good beer, and in Safety Harbor, that bar is Copperheads Tap House.

Opened last July, Copperheads has quickly become one of the more popular local watering holes, attracting a wide demographic with a little something for everyone: football games on Sundays, trivia on the first Thursday of each month (my team snagged second place on Metal Trivia night during Tampa Bay Beer Week despite showing up 30 minutes late, and, yes, I'm being very smug about it), live music on the weekends, darts and pool, wine and cigars, and a whole lot of quality craft beer.

It's no surprise that beer is the central focus of Copperheads Tap House, but it's important to note that this is something fairly new to Safety Harbor. Other downtown bars serve good beer, but none that I'm aware of offer the range and quality of selection of Copperheads. I've bumped into a few regulars who have been turned onto craft beer directly as a result of Copperheads coming to town.

Although Copperheads doesn't stand out much visually — it's situated between a convenience store and a laundromat — it attracts much more than the beer-geek crowd that some specialty bars cater almost exclusively to. Many people find it from the sound of music coming from inside, or from groups of people congregating on the outdoor, street-facing patio.

Inside, Copperheads looks like an ordinary, modern neighborhood bar, albeit a fairly hip one. Work from local artists hangs on the wall, the exposed ductwork has been painted black, a long bar wraps around a bottle cooler and a long stretch of tap handles, and a space toward the back is home to dart boards and a tan-felted pool table. Smoking is not allowed inside, so a wooden patio deck with benches is located right outside the main entrance.

Behind the bar, you'll immediately notice two things: the 30 beers on tap, and two flatscreen televisions above those taps. On the TVs are lists of the current draft beers, accompanied by their price, style, alcohol content, proper glassware category and cumulative scores from the two major beer rating websites, BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. The wealth of information contained on these screens is extremely helpful, but if you have any questions, the staff seems very knowledgeable and eager to help. Samples are also available upon request, as are beer flights, if you're indecisive like me and can never pick just one beer.

While craft beer is clearly the major player here, wine lovers aren't left out. There are a number of house wines available, as well as several other varieties (I'm told the wine menu also rotates) on hand covering a range of styles and regions.

For the dedicated regular, Copperheads also has an amusing loyalty program, based on the amount of draft beers ordered. To become a prospect and subsequently receive a House Beer Club Prospect T-shirt (like a really thirsty motorcycle gang initiate) and a free draft on the house, one must rack up a total of 50 points (one point per draft beer). Members complete various tier levels along the way for T-shirt upgrades and gift cards, topping off at the Drunken Master tier, which includes a 20 percent lifetime discount, a plaque on the wall and the satisfaction of knowing that you've consumed 1,000 draft beers during your tenure as a Copperheads House Beer Club member.

A thousand beers might seem like a lot, but don't let that stop you from grabbing a pint at Copperheads. If you're a Safety Harbor resident, there's a good chance you already know about it, but if you're not, take a detour and stroll through downtown Safety Harbor sometime. It's a nice little area, and there's a nice little beer bar to cool off in when thirst strikes.

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