TAMPA — Beer knowledge pours out of Tim Shackton like strong German doppelbock from a tap.
During a recent tour of the new brewhouse at the upcoming Ulele restaurant at the former Tampa Water Works building, Shackton spelled out the process of making beer in minute detail.
For almost 90 minutes, he walked me through his glimmering 15-barrel stainless steel brewing system, from the grist mill used for releasing starches from the malted barley to the refrigerated service tanks where the finished beer will flow to the restaurant’s bar, beer garden and kegs.
The restaurant is in the final stages of construction along the Hillsborough River after more than two years of planning by restaurateur Richard Gonzmart and the Columbia Restaurant Group.
Shackton, who formerly worked as a brewmaster for the Hops restaurant chain, was hired more than a year ago to create craft beers for Ulele as well as for the seven Columbia restaurants.
The beers he plans to make are enough to make you thirsty for a cold one.
Shackton says he will start with a handful of core beers on the menu. The list includes a light cream ale, a honey lager, “Rusty’s Red” American amber red, a mixed berry fruit “Wedding” beer, a Water Works pale ale and a seasonal beer that will swap out every three or four months. That might include a Belgian wit beer or hefeweizen during summer, a doppelbock in late spring and an Oktoberfest brew in September and October.
Ulele’s brewery, which is housed in the former water works pump room which in recent years was used as a city of Tampa TV studio, got its license to operate two weeks ago. The room might have been finished sooner, but construction workers discovered an elaborate network of old pipes and a water cistern that had to be excavated. Some of those pipes were saved to be used as table bases.
For more than a year, Shackton has been busy making homebrew versions of the beers, collaborating with executive chef Eric Lackey on menu pairings and giving tastings of his experiments.
“I’ve not seen a woman who has sipped that fruit beer who didn’t finish it,” Ulele managing partner Keith Sedita said. “Even women who say they don’t like beer love drinking that beer.”
Shackton can go from zero to Beer Yoda in half a second. His passion is evident every time he talks about making brew, but he isn’t pretentious about them.
“I’ll be creating big beers,” Shackton said. “I’ll be making bold beers. I want people happy. I don’t want my love of beer to get in the way of their enjoyment.”
MARGARITA FEST MADNESS
If you attended last year’s inaugural Tampa Bay Margarita Festival at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, congratulations on surviving the heat and long lines.
Organizers of this year’s event, which takes place Saturday, promises several improvements, including:
♦ Eighty bartenders instead of only 18 last year.
♦ Improved margarita recipes with each tequila brand’s drink expert consulting on the mixtures.
♦ More shade and seating.
♦ A quicker check-in at the entrance gate.
♦ No more drink tickets needed to get beverages.
♦ A frozen margarita truck that will serve margaritas that will actually will be frozen.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For information, visit tampamargaritafest.com.
Consider adding these newly published books to your liquor library:
“The Old Fashioned; The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail,” by Robert Simonsen (Ten Speed Press, $18.99). American culinary pioneer James Beard put the Old Fashioned in his top 3 cocktails list. This beautiful hardcover book traces the drink’s history, its recent resurgence in the hands of craft cocktail makers and shares dozens of variations on the classic.
“Vintage Beer; A Taster’s Guide to Brews That Improve over Time,” by Patrick Dawson (Storey, $14.95). The idea of aged beer may be foreign to you, but stouts, sour beers and barley wines improve with age. Dawson offers an excellent guide to patient collectors for exploring aged beers and managing your beer cellar.
“Whisky: The Manual,” by Dave Broom (Octopus, $19.99). Broom, a columnist for Whisky Advocate and editor of the Scotch Whisky Review, debunks a few myths (no, whisky doesn’t always have to be served neat), shares some history (the spirit was dyed pink in the 1970s to attract female drinkers) and walks readers though brand tasting notes and a bar full of cocktail recipes.
MEAD AND BEER AHEAD
Cigar City Cider and Mead, the latest venture by Cigar City Brewing, has set June 23 as the scheduled date to open in Ybor City at the former home of Roosevelt 2.0. Build-out began May 13 in what used to be a police horse stable back when Teddy Roosevelt came through Tampa. Apple Pie Cider already has been featured in Cigar City’s brewery tasting room on Spruce Street.
Meanwhile, Coppertail Brewing in Ybor City is on track to have its first kegs arriving in bars in July and bottled beer on some retail shelves in September. They plan to open a small, temporary tasting room in August at their 35,000-square-foot headquarters at 2601 E. Second Ave., in Tampa and a permanent version sometime in the fall, Coppertail president Kent Bailey said.