Ybor City is Tampa’s historic district, and where a fair amount of their cultural identity is located. It’s crawling with little plazas, nightclubs, and plenty of cigar bars that harken to its heydays as a major cigar manufacturing hub.
Over on the west side, on the cobblestones south of I-4, lies the tap room and experimental brewing facility for one of Cigar City’s lesser known yet rapidly growing side ventures, Cigar City Cider and Mead.
Opened in 2014, Cigar City Cider and Mead produces a dizzying array of, well, ciders and mead. All are developed in house, but the industrial scale production and packaging is shipped out to a facility in Auburndale.
The facility was kept appropriately industrial-chic, with boarded up windows and a giant, grinning picture of Teddy Roosevelt in his Rough Rider days (Roosevelt and his group stayed in and departed from Tampa on their way to Cuba to fight in the Battle of San Juan Hill).
The restroom area is a wealth of knowledge, with walls covered in descriptions of various types of ciders and meads.
Getting a flight is a little tricky, since it’s priced per sample and the meads are (understandably so) much more expensive than the ciders. Tours are $10 and come with a logoed pint glass, pint of cider, and a few samples as well. If you take the tour, it’s more for what you’ll learn than what you’ll see, since the tour takes place solely on the north side of the tap room.
But there was a lot to try, and there were a lot of excellent brews my wife and I enjoyed while everyone was smiling at my increasingly adorable daughter. Not that I’m biased or anything. Combining the flight with what was on the tour, or day consisted of:
Angry Doodle (Cider) – This was a collaboration with Sweden-based (but Tampa-raised) Slim Pickens. The apple cider was with ginger and vanilla bean, and had a nice, sweet, and slightly peppery feel to it.
Vincente (Mead, 7.5% ABV) – Named for Vincente Ybor, the cigar magnate that built Ybor City. This relatively simple mead contains orange blossom honey and vanilla, and is rich and sweet. Not quite like cake frosting or something, but still meaty and well-rounded.
Black Currant (Cider, 5.5% ABV) – Pretty simple, it’s their cider produced with black currants. Flavorful and slightly tart.
In A Headlock (Mead, 13.% ABV) – Um, wow. There’s a lot to this mead, featuring buckwheat honey, maple syrup, cacao, and vanilla. Once produced, the mead was then aged in oak. There’s such a massive depth to the flavor of the mead, and it was really fantastic. So much good stuff here.
Cowboy Dan’s Caramel Extravaganza (Cider, 5.5% ABV) – I would love to know more about this cider. Sure, it’s a standard apple cider, but with big, big caramel flavors. Very sweet, almost like a caramel apple, but without the seeds and ripped tooth fillings.
Strange Bedfellows (Mead, 10% ABV) – This mead was made from galberry honey, and also contains black currants and plum. Nice, moderately strong, and with a light tart edge to it.
I’m liking how ciders are really starting to pop up around the state. While the apples themselves don’t really grow here, all of the adjuncts are, and they do a lot of local sourcing to the mead as well. Add the natural awesomeness of Ybor City to the mix, and there’s a lot to like about Cigar City Cider and Mead.
Teddy says so.
Drink Florida Craft,