I am in Tampa on business for three days this week. I drove in on Monday to try and avoid the long boring drive and traffic. I knew one of the hubby’s friends had just changed jobs in town and thought I should ride over there and make the hubby VERY jealous.
Our friend Justin works for Cigar City Brewing. I think he has the best job, well anyone who works at a brewery has an awesome job. Hard work as I soon learned, but awesome. If you are from the Central Florida area and have never heard of Cigar City you really are missing out on well crafted beers. The time and energy that goes into making each of their beers is amazing.
When you drive up to Cigar City you might not think you are at the right place because it’s a warehouse, but once you see the truck outside with the logo on it and the warehouse door open exposing the HUGE beer tanks you know you are in the right place.
I have only been to a vineyard, and never had visited a brewery so I was quite excited to learn about beer. Most of you know I am not a big drinker. On questionaires for the doctor’s offices, I check off “drinks less than twice a month”. I think that changes during Pumpkinhead season, but mostly I allow the hubby to drink…and I drive.
Cigar City has a great air-conditioned tasting room, and when I walked in, the bar area was packed with people. Guys and girls a like were in their getting samples of the many brews that Cigar City has. A few people came in for a quick drink, grabbed Growlers of some of the more rare brews and were out of there! They have a dart board area, as well as low top tables. Justin told me a lot of college students come in, chill out and study while drinking a tasty hometown beer. They don’t serve food, but the friendly bartender is more than happy to give you suggestions of food pairings.
Before tasting any of the beers I had to go outside and learn about the beers. I am sure I am going to murder the correct terms for things, so don’t yell at me. There was so much going on in the warehouse from adding the grain to be ground up to go into the mash tun, to guys releasing the CO2 out of the kegs so they could clean them, to bottles getting ready to be shipped out. I learned different beers take different amounts of grain, and each brewery has their own grain to give their beers that distinct flavor.
Cigar City only opened more than a year and a half ago, however they have grown tremendously in that time. Justin told me they use to be able to label all their beers by hand, but now have a labler. However they still assemble all the shipping boxes and place all of the bottles in the boxes by hand. Cigar City is truly a hometown operation, but don’t let that fool you, they have a distinct flavor and that has won them many awards.
One of the best things that the Brewmaster’s who work there get to do is they are not discouraged from trying something new. If someone has a flavor suggestion, they try it. A little of this, and a bit of that and you could get something that ends up being a really well received taste. For example, I tried Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and that was just one of the guy’s playing with PH levels, and grain amounts among other things. How fun! Since they are their own company they get that freedom.
I kept noticing all of these beer bottles around the warehouse, almost on display but in rows all the way up the wall. I asked Justin and he said that the guy who started Cigar City, Joe, has taken part in drinking all of those different beers, and saves the bottles of any new ones. It’s amazing to look at all of them and think there are that many different types of brews out there.
Finally it was time to head into the tasting room! They have 13 different tastes you can try, one of them being a “guest” brew from another local brewery. I tried (from left to right in the picture) Guava Grove Saison, Good Gourd Pumpkin Spice, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and White Oak IPA. My favorites were the first two! I am not saying the others were bad, because they weren’t. The White Oak was clean and really tastey, and the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie finished exactly like the name suggests! The Guava was nice bcause it was tart and fruity, not like your typical beer. And like I said before, I am a pumpkin lover, so the Pumpkin Spice was really good, if only it were a couple of degrees cooler outside. Justin did have me taste what is known as the “flavor explosion” Russian Imperial Stout…and he was correct! It’s incredibly dark, and there was so much going on tastewise.
I got the hubby a Growler of Tocobaga Red, because he loves the hoppy beers. I will let you know what he says.
Cigar City is just a really fun place to hang out. If you live in Tampa and have not gone please go and visit them. And if you are anywhere near Tampa, go next time you are in the area.
Support local businesses, and support local breweries.
From the Cigar City website:
Cigar City Brewing is a 6,600 sq ft., 15 bbl production brewery in the business of hand crafting ales for the Florida market.
Cigar City Brewing offers kegs and bottles for wholesale distribution to retail accounts and at the brewery via our Tasting Room and gift shop.
Regular Tasting Room Hours are:
11 AM till 9PM Monday thru Thurs.
11 AM till 11PM Fri. and Sat.
The brewery and Tasting Room are located at:
3924 W Spruce Street Suite A Tampa, Florida 33607 firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 813-348-6363 ext. 206
One block off of Dale Mabry, near I-275 and behind Whole Foods, Total Wine and More and the Home Depot.
Cigar City Brewing offers tours by appointment and a gift shop which includes, from time to time, special release and one-off beers to go.