Red Cypress Brewery is a new brewery opening this weekend in Winter Springs, close to Orlando and the University of Central Florida.
I recently spoke with Ryan Parker, Red Cypress CEO and general manager about the brewery, the future, and not inviting demons into their tap room:
When did you first discover craft beer?
I discovered craft beer in college, but I really discovered what craft beer can be when my wife and I traveled out to Bend, Oregon. We got to tour Deschutes and visited their 10 bbl brewpub and really fell in love with the culture. This was one of the reasons that our taproom manager position was such an important hire for us because Andrea, our manager, worked for Tröegs and Widmer previously and really helped bring that culture to our company.
When did you start brewing?
I did some home-brewing, but I knew my skills weren’t up to par with the level of beer we want to produce so we hired a headbrewer. We were lucky enough to run into Garrett Ward, who learned to brew under Ron Raike at Cask and Larder and then came and joined us. He’s been producing phenomenal beer for us so far.
What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?
Right now I would say we actually have two signature beers, and they are polar opposites of each other. Our Devil’s Chair IPA is a really well balanced IPA, hoppy yet drinkable. We named it after the urban myth regarding the cemetery in Cassadaga, Fl.
(Editor Note: See below for his explanation of the Devil’s Chair myth.)
The second one would be our Death Roll milk stout, poured on nitro. It’s a sweet, clean, lower ABV milk stout that honestly reminds me of a milkshake.
You named a milk stout ‘Death Roll?’ How did you get that name?
With the darkness of the beer and foamy haze of the nitro pour, it reminded us of the water in the everglades. You can see the our logo for it on our website.
How did you come about finding your brewing space?
I’m not going to lie, that was a tough search. As a UCF alumni I wanted to be close to my alma mater, but between the two counties we were looking in, there was a ton of zoning laws we had to look into. Winter Springs ended up being a great fit because we are still close to campus, but the zoning allowed us to open without any issues or delays.
The other piece of that is that we wanted a lot of space. We ended up with over 12,500 square feet, but finding spaces that size were difficult. We ended up taking six units in the building we are in and just knocked down all of the walls.
Colleges are traditionally about beer consumption in quantities, not quality. How has the Knight community treated you?
The UCF community has been fantastic. We’ve had quite a few students and alumni in and I am working on a handful of ways on how we can involve students in our daily operations.
With the size of the facility you have, are you looking at canning/bottling/distribution?
Yes! We have space set aside for a canning line (should be in the second half of 2016). We are starting draft distribution in January for a seven county, Central Florida area.
How do you get inspiration in developing recipes and names for your beers?
We try to pull a lot of our names from Central Florida, be it locations or myths or whatever. The name “Devil’s Chair” is a myth about this brick chair in the Cassadaga cemetery, where if you leave an unopened beer on the chair at midnight, it’ll be empty but unopened the next morning.
We’re also releasing an imperial stout for our Grand Opening called “The Senator” which was the world’s largest and oldest cypress tree that lived 5 miles away from the brewery until it unfortunately burnt down a couple years.
We also try to pull local ingredients into our beer whenever possible. We just released a saison that we made with Florida orange peel. Our first beer was a brown that we brewed with 200 pounds of locally sourced wildflower honey.
What was the inspiration behind the name of your brewery?
The brewery name is along the same aspects of the beer names. We want to remind people that we are a Florida brewery and the cypress trees are an iconic image in the Central Florida area.
Do you think there’s any chance you would age some of your beers on cypress wood?
Possibly. I’d have to look more into it and see what flavors it would impart and which style that may work with. That being said, all of our flight paddles are custom made out of cypress wood so our beer does mingle quite frequently with cypress.
There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for this people?
As breweries grow, there are going to be a lot more specialized jobs within them. There are a lot of things to do that don’t involve standing on the brewhouse stage. Think about what makes you valuable and then find a brewery that needs that skill set. Just an example, we’re getting ready to start building up our lab program. We’ll most likely be hiring someone with a biology degree to help us pull cultures, etc.
Do you see an end to the recent Florida craft beer boom?
Not at all. In fact, I think we’re going to only see it pick up from here over the next 5 years. Even though things have been doing well in Florida, we still are far behind most of the rest of the country. It’ll be a while before we catch up.
Once you open, will you put a growler of Devil’s Chair IPA on the Devil’s Chair to see if it works?
I might, but I’m afraid whoever drank it would end up stopping by the taproom for more.