Food & Drink » Food & Wine

Hometown Brew

Master brewer introduces Copper Flask lager to Memphis.



There's no better way to end the day than with cold beer and good conversation — especially when you're having that beer with the man who created it.

Tony Vieira is a certified master brewer and CEO of Naked Lion Brewing Co., which he started with his family. The Memphis company launched its first beer, Copper Flask, in May.

Vieira is, like all serious brewers, a scientist by default. He has steeped himself in chemical formulas, the physics of cooking, the biology of managing organic substances such as yeast, and the technology that resulted in the beer on the table in front of us.

Vieira's clear devotion to the craft is a shared trait among brewers, whose love for the minutiae lends them a sort of Trekkie-like vibe.

"Brewers are kind of weird," Vieira admits with a grin. "It's a hobby you can't get rid of."

Vieira's philosophy toward beer is a reflection of the local culture near Boston, where he grew up and went to college. "It's sort of the great equalizer," he says. "The poorest man can buy the best beer in the world."

Master brewer Tony Vieira - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Vieira knows how to get things done. He received his masters from Vanderbilt, owned a string of brew pubs in the Boston area, and worked for two of the nation's largest brewing companies, including the local Coors plant. He currently holds a position in corporate strategy with FedEx.

But brewing beer seems to be what he loves best.

"It's such a great sort of industry to be in, " Vieira says. "When you can take your work home and enjoy doing it, that's the best situation."

To create Copper Flask, Vieira began with a question: "What's the very first beer I'd make?" he recalls. "This is closest to an Oktoberfest [beer]. It's a lager. The style would be a festbier, and that's because the alcohol is a little higher and a little darker."

The label on the bottle boasts of the sour mashing process that the lager undergoes during the brewing. "The process itself is a trade secret," Vieira explains. He says a great deal of the beer's distinct flavor comes from this process.

Copper Flask, named after a brewing term for unofficial taste testing, weighs in with an impressive 5.95 percent alcohol per volume. It has a lager's smoothness, the hops biting just enough without overpowering. The beer finishes with a satisfying malty fullness.

"We wanted to brew something that was closer to true-style but at the same time give consumers a beer that was drinkable and had a higher alcohol content," Vieira says. "We're really happy with how the beer came out."

Naked Lion's beer is brewed at City Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and then distributed to Memphis and the several other markets.

Vieira says he would eventually like to open his own brewery in Memphis. "If people like the beer, then I'll build that brewery," he says.

"I started my 19th year in the brewing industry in May," he says. "I'm brewing beer for myself and the people I love, and if I can sell it after that, I'm happy."

Copper Flask is sold at Raffe's Deli, Sam's "Z" Mart, Ike's, and Schnucks. It's also served at Young Avenue Deli, Bangkok Alley, and Yia Yia's.

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