Florida brewers have made an Irma IPA to help hurricane victims

Craft beer drinkers, prepare for Irma IPA.

What started with spaghetti models has ended with 15 barrels of Irma-themed beer, produced as part of a statewide collaboration in St. Petersburg this month. Brewers expect sales of the beer to earn tens of thousands of dollars in aid to Hurricane Irma storm victims in Florida.

It may be one of the first times both brewers and vendors have pulled together to brew for charity.

"I don't want to say it's never been done before," said Kent Bailey, president of Coppertail Brewing in Tampa. "But I can't think of a time."

It started back when no one knew precisely who was going to bear the brunt of the storm's wrath. The Florida Brewers Guild has a private message board, open only to members. There were pledges of mutual help, brewers offering cooler space for beer in the event that fellow brewers' power went out. But maybe there was more they could do?

"It came together pretty easily," said Khris Johnson, the founding brewer at Green Bench Brewing in St. Petersburg. "It can be difficult to navigate all of our minds. But we were all focused on doing what we could for our neighbors, wondering how we could get as many people involved as possible, including our customers."

Johnson started scheming with Casey Hughes, the brewer at Coppertail; Justin Stange, one of the partners at 7venth Sun Brewing in Dunedin; and Eric Trinoskey, a brewer at Cycle Brewing in St. Petersburg. Maybe they could collaborate on a beer and have the proceeds benefit those in need of Irma relief.

Hughes was working with some Idaho 7 hops at the time and thought it would be cool to spell out Irma in the hops: The Idaho; then a big fruity hop from the New Zealand called Rakau; a newish hop called Mosaic (fresh pine, mango, blueberry); and a popular hop called Amarillo (high alpha acids along; grapefruit and citrus aromas). I-R-M-A.

"They play well together for making an IPA, because of the focus of the hop aromas, with citrusy and pine-forward notes," said Bailey.

But here's where things get interesting. Hop producers agreed to donate their product and Johnson and crew convinced other suppliers to follow suit: Brewers Supply Group, YCH Hops, Country Malt Group, John I. Haas, Inc., Craft Brands, Bay Tech Label, Craft Beer Crew Mobile Canning and Canning Supplier donated time, goods and services so that 100 percent of the money the beer makes will go to Feeding Florida.

"One of the things we talked about early on was how difficult it is to donate to charities," Johnson said. "There's this donor's anxiety, if you will. We had a list of eight or nine Florida relief funds. Feeding Florida will be taking aid to the areas that really need it most."

They brewed the barrels of Irma at Green Bench on Sept. 22; it will be canned on Oct. 11 and sold in the tasting rooms of Green Bench, Coppertail and 7venth Sun. If six-packs are $10 and they decide on a pint price of $6, Johnson estimates it will raise $15,000 to $18,000.

That's not the end of the story.

"When I started to get donations, I had too many ingredients," Johnson said. "So I thought, what if we make multiple batches and make this a bigger thing. Let's reach out to Intuition (Ale Works in Jacksonville) and M.I.A. (Beer Company in Miami), and let's offer them to be a part of it and brew the beer at their locations."

Johnson said this eliminates the "too many cooks in the kitchen" phenomenon. The recipe and ingredients were sent out and Intuition and M.I.A. brewed their own.

The project was a good fit with the kind of work they already do.

"Craft beer is about being a part of your community," Bailey said. "That's what this is all about."

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.