At Home with Cigar City Brewing

January 29, 2011
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Cigar City BrewingFlorida typically does not rank among the places most people think of when it comes to good craft beer. But over the past few years, that reputation has been shifting. Breweries such as St. Somewhere in Tarpon Springs, Bold City in Jacksonville and Cigar City in Tampa have proven that good beer can also be made in the Sunshine State.
On a recent trip home (I’m from Southwest Florida, myself), I spent a short time in Tampa and had the opportunity to visit the brewery. With the help of a good friend who lives in the area, I located the brewery at one end of a strip mall: a garage-style area hosted the brewing equipment while the tasting room awaited us just next door.

There didn’t appear to be much of a tour available (although you could get the full gist of the place by peeking through the open garage area) but the gentleman behind the bar in the tasting room was welcoming and warm. And the clientele was even friendlier. One man at the bar applauded my Harpoon shirt and another gave us a few great recommendations for the two flights we ordered.

Our first flight featured their Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, a Christmas-themed mint brew, Batch 69 Cream Ale and the Jose Marti Porter (named for a Cuban icon who made quite an impression on Tampa as well).

Our second flight served up Maduro Brown, Bolita Double Brown, Jai-Alai IPA and, my personal favorite of the evening, Tocobaga “Red” Ale. Overall, the sweet selections — oatmeal raisin, mint, cream ale — were just too sweet, although the oatmeal raisin was nicely balanced — just not my cup of tea.

I’d had the Maduro and the Jai-Alai in the past and I’ve always considered them decent brews. The porter and the double brown were fantastic on tap. The porter was light with just enough malt. The double brown was more flavorful than its predecessor, the Maduro.

But the Tocobaga was, by far, the better brew. This copper-tinted ale features a strong malty but lightly sweet flavor that has undertones of both hops and smokiness. This was one of the two beers that I decided to take home with me in quart-sized growlers. I also took home two bottles with plans to smuggle them home in my suitcase — these bottles were the award-winning Humidor Series IPA and Improvisacion, a creative brew styled as an oatmeal rye India-style brown ale which was pretty delicious (on a side note, we weren’t as impressed with the IPA).

Overall, Cigar City is a great spot for craft beer in Tampa. For a New Yorker, it was incredibly affordable but it also offered a great, friendly atmosphere that was so much more than a brewery tasting room.

2 Responses to At Home with Cigar City Brewing

  1. Jenn
    February 4, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hey – If you get to the Panhandle of Florida, you might want to check out Pensacola Bay Brewery. They are new, but have usually 7 different brews on tap. The PBB was started in 2010 by home brewers and has picked up quite a following here.
    http://pbbrew.com/

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