There’s some irony in the fact that Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing Company counts one of the area’s best India pale ales as its flagship brew, while simultaneously focusing largely on a revolving lineup of limited-release IPAs, from the recent Pax Odeon entry in the Alpha Hunt series to what is now the sixth iteration of the brewery’s Hop Skull IPA roster.
Some may question the wisdom of fixing what ain’t broke, but the endless tinkering with various hop combinations, grain bills, yeast strains and brewing techniques occasionally produces some absolute standouts, like the aforementioned Hop Skull #6, a beer that is straightforward on paper and in practice, but that is nonetheless a must-try for fans of the style.
Previous Hop Skull brews have riffed on various hot-now hop varieties, like Cashmere and Vic Secret, along with novel yeast strains, such as the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Norwegian kveik variety.
Hop Skull #6 brings it back to the basics, with a hop trio comprised of Citra, Simcoe and Galaxy — a blend that’s practically nostalgic, given the speed at which IPA trends come and go.
Citra and Simcoe, of course, make up half of the hop bill for Free Dive, making Hop Skull #6 something of a spiritual successor to the brewery’s flagship. It surely drinks similarly, with a crisp, well-defined hop flavor boasting notes of mango, grapefruit and papaya, balanced against a dry, subtly grainy malt backdrop.
There’s no reinvention of the wheel here, merely a very well-crafted wheel. Hop Skull #6 drinks like any of the myriad dry double IPAs bombed with en vogue hop varieties out there, but it’s a clear cut above — a beer that makes a strong case for a spot in the year-round lineup of a brewery already known for pouring a sincerely killer IPA.
Hop Skull #6’s draft availability is a moving target, but swing by the tasting room for a four-pack of 16-oz. cans, along with one or two previous Hop Skull entries currently featured on draft. If you can’t make it out to Coppertail, good news: This one is in distribution at all fine local beer shops, too.
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