Are you in Tampa? There’s no shortage of craft breweries. Tampa really is the epicenter of the Florida Craft Beer Revolution.
Only have 30 minutes and want to get a flight of beers from a rather giant selection of beers brewed in house? Cigar City it is.
You know Cigar City. Everyone does. And if you don’t, I have written about them a few times on the blog. If you don’t know them, they’re worth a look. They are definitely a force in Florida Craft Beer.
As there’s no way to really try everything they have without living in the back room for a few weeks, and seeing as I had just a little time, my beautiful wife and I grabbed a quick flight. Relatively quick; for a Tuesday night they were pretty slammed.
First, a note: Flights aren’t a set price. Basically, if the beer you want to sample is under 8% ABV, that individual sample is $1.50. Above 8% and the price is $2. Multiply that by 4, and that’s your price. I got charged $6 for the above, which isn’t too bad. Here’s what I got:
Sugar Plum (English Brown Ale, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU) is nothing like I thought it would be. You think Sugar and Plum, you would think sweet. At least I did. Joke’s on me.
I am going to backtrack just a bit and let you know the name is more a celebration of Christmas than it is a specific recipe. It’s their seasonal Christmas ale, and when you taste it, it’ll have a big hit of a lot of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, rose hips, ginger, and chamomile. They infuse that in what is a pretty dark and roasty brown ale, giving the beer a pretty strong, peppery kick. The beer itself isn’t necessarily strong, but there are so many dark spices to go along with the light coffee notes from the malt that it comes across as being bolder and heartier that it necessarily is. If I drank this by the fireplace in a cold winter’s night, it would be perfect.
French Toast (English Brown Ale, 5.5% ABV, 25 IBU) is another English brown ale, very similar in weight, mouthfeel, and alcohol as the Sugar Plum above. But whereas the Sugar Plum is bold, the French Toast is sweet. Really sweet. Like sugar-coated cereal sweet. All you have to do is smell it, and the aroma of maple syrup is immediately front and center. It’s also big on the palate when you drink it, tending to linger just a bit longer than most beers would. I enjoyed what I had (before my beautiful wife quickly beernapped it).
When it comes to describing a beer, Toasted Coconut and Sweet Orange Peel (Fruit Beer, 5.4% ABV) kinda does it for you already. It’s a light beer, almost a pale ale. Yes, you can taste the coconut, but it’s very light. And the aroma has a lot of the straight orange bouquet, but when it comes to the taste, it’s not so much orange as much as orange peel. It’s darker, with a lot more of the bitter rind flavor that a straight fruity sweetness. That bitterness, plus a bit more hops than expected in a fruit beer, makes the beer just a bit more bitter than I would have preferred.
Finally, I had to grab a few ounces on Cigar City’s collaboration with my beloved Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing. Boulevard recently made it to Florida, and one of the parties thrown for them involved a tap takeover at Cigar City with a collaboration beer between the two breweries, the adorably-named Florida Frost (White IPA, 5.8% ABV, 86 IBU).
If unfamilar with that style, the White IPA is basically a combination between an IPA and a Belgian Witbier, notable for its use of coriander and orange peel. This beer is a bit of a chimera. It’s an aggressive IPA, because Cigar City makes big, angry IPAs (See Jai Alai for proof). But, the light flavors of coriander and orange are present. Nominal, to be sure, but present. And its those flavors that sort of cut the hoppy bitterness of the beer. It makes the brew a lot more palatable for non-IPA drinkers like me.
Going to Cigar City is sort of a pilgrimage for any Florida brewing enthusiasts out there. And they usually have so many taps available that it’s nearly impossible to try everything they have to offer on a normal day without needing a taxi ride and a blood transfusion.
Just do the best you can and expect to come back eventually.
Drink Florida Craft,