Being located in Tampa Bay, Florida, Cigar City Brewing Company has some serious history to live up to. With a history steeped in production, quality, and greatness, this brewing company has a lot of historical icons to follow and that’s a pretty hard path to walk! However, they seem to do it in style, as they’ve taken traditional quality and paired it up with a flavorful future to bring us some of the most interesting brews on the market. For example, these folks love to experiment and those experiments seem to take them higher with each new idea they come up with. We’re glad, because we’ve seen plenty of “experimental” brews drop head-first into the tank in the past. Somehow, Cigar City seems to come out ahead each time, which shows some true talent and raw dedication to creating interesting and innovative craft beers to meet the growing demand for off-the-wall brews.
Tampa Bay has a diverse history in brewing and many other industries. Going back to 1896, and shortly before to be honest, the brewing trade in the area is steeped in tradition and dedication. The original brewing company in Tampa’s Ybor City was called Ybor City Brewing Company. Ok, so they weren’t very creative with names back then, but at least it was clear as the where the brewing company was located right? The brewery was renamed The Florida Brewing Company after some very shrewd businessmen involved in the operation realized they could capitalize on the lack of supply in the area and make a tidy profit off the demand for craft beer in other states and regions.
Upon opening, the brewery had a cap of 25,000 barrels annually, though they only produced about half that at the time. After a short while, the brewing company took over the ice works that had previously held the rights to the natural spring named Government Spring (I know, more originality, but they were stolid folk back then) which gave then the ability to open up bottling for mineral water, beer, and soda. This led to them constructing a stable and set of offices, as they were obviously going to need to get organized in the shipping area of the operation.
Fast forward to Prohibition, as the years in between were pretty darn easy what with the wars and providing plenty of brews to the troops, including Roosevelt’s Rough Riders (though this fact is in debate depending on which side is telling the story). During Prohibition, the brewery obviously saw a serious backlash in public. That, however, meant nothing to the private scene, where their business was still thriving in spite of the era. Tampa was known as “one of the wettest dry cities in the United States” and it was not too long before the brewery was affected by the many Prohibition raids, being caught with over 12,000 gallons of brew on site. Naturally they were closed up and fined, but a wise court later overturned the judgement (we’re still curious as to whether that judge was quite as dry as the previous one had been).
Later, after the irritating era had finally skidded to a close (possibly due to husbands being fed up with hiding their brew from their wives and finally taking a stand), the brewery was renamed the Tampa Florida Brewery, Inc. and looked forward to some of the best years they had ever experienced. However, during this time, other breweries were popping up and competition was going to start getting fiercer in the area with two other breweries already open and more looking to get a foot in.
In fact, if you happen to find anything with the old De Soto Brewing label on it, you might want to lock it away. That brewery lasted a precious two years and the memorabilia is about as rare as rocking horse droppings at this point. Just a word to the collectors out there who may come across something of course. Southern Brewing was the other brewery already open in Tampa and they closed in 1963. This brewery gave TFBI a good run for their business, but later had to sell out to IBI (International Breweries, Inc.) due to simply not having the clout to continue.
You might be wondering how all of this relates to Cigar City Brewing, considering some of those old breweries exceeded even CCB’s production. Well folks, IBI and Southern Brewing lost the race when the northern brewery called Schlitz popped up. TFBI enjoyed the years of being top producer in the area for quite some time, but even they eventually fell under the strain of keeping up with the bigger companies that were popping up all over the United States during that time.
All of this history adds up to an outstanding history of dedication, perseverance, and local love for great craft beer. The area has seen breweries come and go over time, with the most recent having been Ybor City Brewing Company (reincarnated!) which eventually sold their recipes to what is now the largest craft brewer in Florida, the Florida Beer Company. With so many amazing breweries to follow, how could Cigar City make a name for themselves?!
The answer is pretty darn simple overall. Their beer. Cigar City has one of the most diverse collections of innovative and interesting brews on the market to date. We’d even stretch to say they rival Funky Buddha, though the Buddha is demanding some pretty amazing prices at this time. The brewmasters at Cigar City Brewing understand that craft beer lovers want something that isn’t exactly the norm. They want innovation, flavor, aroma, and that “something” that makes them really love the brew they are tasting. This is where Cigar City excels, because their brews are over-the-top in terms of creativity in some cases, while others hold that classic solidarity that the traditionalists love as well.
The great thing about the craft brewing industry is that we are afforded the opportunity to be creative. Without this aspect, the industry would not be quite as much of a draw as it is. People would quickly become bored with the same old classic styles, with those same old “just a tad different than that other guy” recipes. Sound familiar (cough, AB-Inbev)? If we all wanted the same old boring brews, we wouldn’t be travelling all over the United States, and sometimes the world, to find new and interesting brews! New hops varieties excite us. Found a new malt? Awesome! New yeast variety? Great! Let’s see what we can make with it!
This is the kind of thinking that has made Cigar City a hot spot for craft beer enthusiasts all over the world. Besides the fact that Tampa Bay is a huge tourist draw already, it certainly helps that there are breweries ready to meet the demands of the many yearly tourists that come through, who then take stories of those amazing brews back to their homes all over the world, leading to more creative brews being made in those parts of the world too! It really shows how innovation in the right areas can affect a change on an entire industry with minimal effort. That is exactly what breweries like Cigar City have done, because their interesting ideas seem to be gaining more popularity every year and the demand for even more off-the-wall brews from them is increasing yearly as well!
There are a huge variety of craft beers on their list of offerings. Year-round, seasonal, nitro, and more are included in the options and you really do need to pay them a visit in Tampa Bay to get a handle on exactly how massive their list really is. However, for the purposes of this feature, we’ve put together a bit of a list of their year-round and seasonal brews, just to give you a hint of what these folks are capable of. After all, it wouldn’t be fair of us to lead you all the way up to this and then just drop you into a bucket of cold suds right? Exactly.
Jai Alai IPA – This brew is named after a game native to Spain. Thankfully, the brew does not include the risk of injury that the game does, as it was played with a mitt and the idea was to catch balls travelling at speeds of nearly 200mph! Cleary the Spanish have a sense of humor, as they consider the game to be quite fun. The brew is far more enjoyable in our view, with a decidedly pairable nature that matches up with a variety of great dishes from seafood to empanadas. We have to say, it’s best suited to spicy dishes, as it really brings out the flavors in the food.
Maduro Brown Ale – This delicious craft beer is brewed in the Northern English style with a touch of American influence added in. With a higher ABV than most English Brown Ales, this brew offers a taste of tradition with a bit of a kick. It has an outstandingly smooth body that we found to be very attractive along with the roasty chocolate tones. Overall it is a solid Brown Ale and pairs quite well with a variety of core foods like steak, while still holding the ability to contrast well with spicier foods, too.
Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale – If you didn’t know that Florida was the oldest Cattle Raising state in the U.S., then you’d have no idea where the name for this brew originated. Luckily, Cigar City Brewing Company was kind enough to give you a history lesson on the brew page, which you’ll have to visit to find out. We are happy to tell you that we found this brew to be a great example of its style, which is a Belgian-style White Ale, as stated. We truly loved the slightly biting finish on this brew and it has the potential for pairing with quite a variety of foods, depending on your tastes. We suggest contrasting it with creamy dishes.
Invasion Pale Ale – This brew truly is an Invasion of flavor and aroma. Based on an era when Tampa Bay was incessantly preyed upon by the Pirate Scourge in spite of their “better technology”, the brew is a hint that perhaps we should have been offering those seafaring whelps some great brew instead of trying to figure out how to destroy them. Our take on this brew was that it is definitely a Sessionable beer, which is not so off-the-wall for an American Pale Ale. We appreciated the strong citrus notes and were reminded of the dog days of summer, when this brew would have been perfect as an all-day brew.
Bear in mind that this is simply a short listing of the offerings from this outstanding craft brewery. There are plenty more that you can discover by paying them a visit, or heading to their website as well. We highly suggest a visit, as their staff is courteous, knowledgeable, and quite welcoming. We had a great time during our visit and we know you will, too, so head down to South Florida and enjoy some of what Tampa Bay has to offer in terms of brewing, entertainment, and so much more. In the meantime, we’ll be here in West Palm Beach, Florida, enjoying a variety of craft beers from all over the United States, as well as some amazing premium wines, and letting you know about each one as we come across them!
Happy Hour Mon-Fri | 4pm - 7pm
Interested in hosting a VIP event at the West Palm Brewery? Click here for details