Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. Makes Anti-Zika Beer for Wynwood Bars and Restaurants

Can beer help fight Zika?
Can beer help fight Zika?
Courtesy of Coppertail Brewing Co.

A month into the Zika scourge and it's still the number one topic of conversation — and consternation — in Miami. 

First, Zika turned up in Wynwood, infecting more than a dozen people and causing businesses to hemorrhage money after tourists and locals stopped going to South Florida's most artistic neighborhood.

Then Zika arrived in Miami Beach, and residents are up in arms about the pesticide naled being sprayed over their homes.

Now is just as good a time as ever to start drinking — and Coppertail Brewing  Co. has something that might just help the situation (it certainly can't hurt it).

The Tampa brewery is planning the release of Cinchona Berliner weisse Monday, September 26, to restaurants and bars in Wynwood. What's so special about this particular craft beer?

It's all in the ingredients. The Cinchona Berliner weisse is a German wheat beer aged with lemon zest and the bark of the cinchona plant. That plant, by the way, is a major source of quinine — the ingredient used to treat mosquito-borne malaria. Quinine is also found in tonic water, although modern-day versions of this soda use far less quinine. The same can be said for the Cinchona Berliner weisse. 

Though a 2014 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study found that quinine worked like deet or citronella to repel mosquitoes, there's probably not enough of it in the beer to make a significant difference. 

Coppertail brewmaster Casey Hughes explains, “We’re using the cinchona bark more for flavor than for medicinal purposes. You should taste a little wood and a crisp citrus note. It’s a nod to tradition and history in mosquito-plagued areas.”

Coppertail's marketing director, Gary Kost, says the idea behind the beer was to support the brewery's Wynwood accounts by making an interesting beer. "We wanted to help our friends in Wynwood. Back in the day, the cinchona plant, also known as the fever tree, was used to fight malaria and as a muscle relaxer." Kost explains that the amount used in the beer is well under the parts per billion that would give it any medicinal value, but it's a way to boost some sales in the Wynwood market. 

Coppertail, in partnership with Gold Coast Distributing, is offering kegs of Cinchona Berliner weisse to Wynwood-area bars and restaurants at around half the normal cost, allowing establishments to make a little more profit. So far, places that will pour the beer are:

Coppertail Brewing president Kent Bailey hopes the Cinchona Berliner weisse can help drive customers to Wynwood's watering holes for a pint or two of this mosquito-fighting beer. “This Zika scare has driven so many people away from the Wynwood neighborhood. They have an amazing craft beer community. These small businesses are struggling to survive. And these are our friends. This is our way of doing something to help.” 

In the end, drinking this beer probably won't repel mosquitoes. But luring people back to Wynwood to try some of this anti-mosquito beer has its own benefits.

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