(Once again, I know this happened some time ago. But, I am building up the blog, and I have a lot of good beer to get through. Besides, it’s a fun tour.)
Jose Gaspar was a (mythical) pirate that lived and ‘worked’ on the Florida Gulf Coast at the end of the 18th century. His death near Sarasota was the stuff of romantic legends that make for great books. Was he real? Probably not. Does Tampa celebrate his legend every year? Sure does.
It just so happened that my trip to Tampa occurred on that day. Not that it’s too much of a bad thing; it was fun to see pirate garb everywhere. But I was in Tampa for two things: My beloved Tampa Bay Lightning and my favorite brewery in Florida, Cigar City Brewing.
Cigar City Brewing is hidden in a blue warehouse, behind a Home Depot on Dale Mabry (it’s not too far from Raymond James stadium, where the Bucs play). With the exception of the sign out front, it’s actually pretty easy to overlook it. I had to look over it more than a few times on Google Earth before making the trip.
Tours are on the weekend. They say to make reservations on their website so the tours don’t fill up, but it looked like they had plenty of room for walk-ups (mind you, I did an 11 AM tour. Your results may vary. Or, better yet, just do the reservation). It’s $5, but you get a pint glass they fill with anything they have on tap. It’s a great deal already.
What’s nice about Cigar City is they spend a good time talking about the ingredients of beer. They even have a 5-gallon water bottle filled with hops, barley, etc. it’s a nice way to just see everything. Going through, we were able to sample some of their beers straight from the tanks. Can’t remember what I had, to be honest. All I remember is it was a nice touch coming straight from the production line. (I also helped one of their brewers fill a pony keg with raspberries, assuming it was a test batch. I tried to contact Cigar City to see how it turned out, but nothing doing).
Keep in mind, it’s not about 11:30 AM, and I already have two beers in me. So, of course, it’s time for a few samplers. The tap room at Cigar City is a wonderful thing: Tons of their regular beers, plenty of guest taps, and quite a few beers only available there. I am sure I will talk about their standard brews later; I’m going to focus on a couple of the standouts right now:
Orudam – Take a look; it’s ‘Maduro’ spelled backwards. And, as the brewers told us, it’s a recreation of the original recipe for Cigar City’s fantastic brown ale. As it was, it was a little on the biting side, but not so much so that it felt rough or unfinished.
Tony Jannus’ Pale Ale – The hops gave it a bite, but not too terribly bad. Very crisp, very clean.
Orudam (L) and Tony Jannus (R)
Guava Grove – I am really enjoying sour beers right now, and this is no exception. It has a really exciting, mouthwatering flavor, and the guava only serves to accentuate that.
Hopped on the High Seas – I’m a big fan of the Norwegian aquavit Linie, and part of that is from the voyage the spirit takes as part of its brewing process. Hopped on the High Seas does that as well, only they throw an extra load of hops into the barrels right before it leaves the brewery in Puerto Rico on its way to Tampa. As for the brew? It’s a good pale ale, but the story seems to be more of the selling point.
Sean’s Damn Dunkelweizen – Sean. Keep it up. Please. I am a huge fan of anything dunkel, and this was no exception.
I’ve been a fan of Cigar City Brewing for some time. It was nice to make it there; I just wish they were closer. And I wish more of the beers were distributed. Especially that dunkel.