Tampa, FL 33607Phone: (813) 348-6363
Flagship Beers: Jai Alai IPA, Maduro Brown Ale, Invasion Pale Ale, Florida Cracker White Ale, Tampa-Style Lager
Special Releases: Marshal Zhukov Imperial Stout, Guayabera Pale Ale, White Oak Jai Alai, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale, Raspberry Halo Imperial Stout
Other Notable Beers: Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
The Down Low: On a recent trip to Florida, there were countless things to plan for. My brother’s wedding on the beach. A trip to Disney World with my wife and kids. Plane tickets. Lodging in 2 different cities. The rental car. Blah, blah, blah. Sure, I was expecting this trip to be a blast from the moment I heard of my brother’s plan to have a destination wedding on Siesta Key Beach. Sure, my kids were thrilled to be able to go to Disney World for the first (and if my wallet has anything to say about it, last) time. Sure, we were looking forward to dipping our toes into what we had been repeatedly told was the #1 beach in the U.S., soaking up the sun and enjoying a rare out of state vacation away from it all. But being a beer guy, as soon as I heard my brother say “Florida,” my mind quickly focused on one all important detail: Where are we going in relation to Cigar City Brewery?
Though we had tasted a few of the more regular Cigar City beers that had drifted into Ohio via friends and family that had brought it back, it was stepping foot in the actual tasting room that I really looked forward to. And so, with the wedding behind us (which was beautiful, by the way) and the trip to Disney World over (unforgettably awesome, in case you’re wondering), our trip was to conclude with a visit to the brewery and production facility in Tampa. Despite all of our driving in Florida up to this point, my wife wanted to make the trip truly complete by making this one final stop for me.
As seems to be the pattern the more I visit breweries I hold in high regard, the location for Cigar City was down an unassuming road, leading to what looked more like a small industrial parkway than anything else. A couple picnic tables outside under an awning and a small sign by the road was all that indicated I was at the right place. Without GPS, you could drive right by and not know that you had missed it. Walking in, there was a nice wooden bar immediately on the left, and some merchandise for sale next to it. Following that, in a room further back, was another, somewhat larger bar accompanied by several tables. After a quick view of the tap lists, I was delighted to see that the bars were different, overlapping only a little when it came to some of their flagship beers. Food trucks are there to serve the patrons each day, but I was just there for the beer.
2 flights later, I had sampled several Cigar City brews that either don’t get canned/bottled, or don’t get distributed up north far enough for us to get a chance to try them. The Margarita Gose and Wandering Pelican Black Lager stood out for me, but what I truly appreciated were the heavier stouts, rich in body and smooth in texture. The Oatmeal Cookie Brown Ale was a nice surprise, crumbling onto my taste buds and making me reconsider my opinion of a beer style that I don’t typically enjoy much. The Marshal Zhukov Penultimate Push was loaded with flavor, dark and roasty with a balanced malt backbone and heavy hint of cocoa. My one major disappointment? Not having Zack there with me. Apparently, having his twin daughters get their tonsils out was recklessly planned the same way that his own wedding day was (OSU-Michigan…really?). Anyway, the bar had a few leftover bottles of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout from Hunahpu Day for sale, but you had to consume it on sight and with one other person. Oh well…I guess it’ll just have to stay on my wish list a little longer.
With a shirt for Zack and me in hand, I was on my way to the airport with memories of a great vacation in my mind for years to come. And for a bucket list that seems to grow more by the year, it was nice to finally cross something off for a change…