By: Brigid Kane-Smith
I remember doing a brewery tour with a very entertaining and enigmatic tour guide named Ian at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, FL last July. One of the facts that was mind blowing to me was that at the time, if Cigar City Brewing had stopped production of all of it’s other beers and only produced Jai Alai, their highly sought after IPA that is in my humble opinion a benchmark for the style, they still wouldn’t be able to meet demand. This is a brewery that only distributes to 6 states- Florida(which gets 90% of the beer made), Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, yet, the knowledge of their quality is so far reaching in the beer community that they have had to almost triple their size within the last few years in order to just keep up with demand! Furthermore, Jai Alai isn’t even their most notable beer! The brewery’s most prized and most coveted beer is definitely Hunahpu, a big, beautiful Imperial Stout aged on cocoa nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chilies, pasilla peppers and cinnamon. This beer by itself scored a perfect 100 on Beer Advocate, but Cigar City being the amazing brewery they are, does special barrel aging of this beer every year that adds to the complexity of this already amazing Imperial Stout! The sheer quality of their beers isn’t just hearsay because they have earned the medals to prove they are elite. Their first time entering GABF, Cigar City won gold with their Humidor Series IPA, which is an IPA aged on cedar. Since then, medals have been won at US Beer Open, Atlanta Cask Competition, Best Florida Beer Championship and Beverage Testing Institute World Beer Championships just to name a few.
So, for Father’s Day I decided to take my husband to Cigar City Brewing to grab a few beers and just be in one of our beer meccas of happiness. As to be expected, there was an insane variety of very creative, well-crafted beers to choose from. For our first round, my husband had the peach sour which was so refreshing on the hot day with the perfect peach sweetness and a nice bite in your jaw that sour lovers want. I started with the Hornswoggled Irish style red ale, aged on White oak spirals and vanilla, and then poured on nitro. I couldn’t even wait to take a sip before I took the picture as you can see because it smelled so amazing! The vanilla was apparent in the nose as well as very nicely complimenting the chocolate from the malts. The white oak spirals, which Cigar City has mastered the use of in their beers, offered a slight coconut flavor to the beer. But, the best part of this beer was this beer being poured on nitro. The vanilla was made that much more amazing by the creamy-ness that is brought about by the smaller nitro bubbles. For our second round my husband had Keegan’s Black IPA which is part of the Brewery’s Torcedores Series. The series features recipes that are written by one of the 78 employees of the company. I continued with the cask that had brown ale aged on chocolate and habanero peppers. Wow! The heat was right where I would like it, in the back of my throat, not ruining my palate. The funny part was, even though it was perfectly placed, I still was turning red and sweating! After that I had a quick sampler of beers that I just couldn’t decide between that included Table Saison, Cucumber Saison (one of my absolute favorite beers ever!), Matt’s Mumme, another one from the Torcedores series, and Sertoma Smoke which is a smoked red ale.
All in all, we had another amazing visit to, what I would venture to say, is our all-time favorite brewery and we can’t wait to go back to Cigar City Brewing again!
Hi! My name is Brigid and I am a craft beer fanatic! I am 30 years old, work at a local brewery here in South Florida and am currently in nursing school. My love affair with beer began in 2011 when I worked at Yard House and I quickly became obsessed. Also, I am married to an amazing man who is equally obsessed with beer and is my partner-in-crime for all of my beer adventures. I am a certified beer server and am undecided about whether to get my Certified Cicerone.
My motto, “I would be a lot thinner if I didn’t drink, but why?”
Find me on Instagram as Hopwench