Tampa, Florida is home to an array of cultures woven together to form an intricate tapestry. As such, the award-winning Cigar City Brewing (3924 West Spruce St.) serves as perfect ambassador for this diverse metropolis. The constantly evolving flavors and styles of the rapidly-growing microbrewery embody Tampa’s playfully eclectic spirit. Of the 16,500 barrels produced here last year, unusual ingredients included peaches, raspberries, even staves of Spanish Cedar.
But if you don’t find something that suits your tastes–highly unlikely given the two dozen taps featured at the bar–just wait a day or so. Cigar City is constantly experimenting with new flavors. A review of their catalogue, past and current, reveals nearly 200 beers produced in the 4 years since they first opened. After a recent renovation to the tasting room, as well as a significant expansion to the brewery itself, Cigar City is poised to up the ante in 2013.
Brewmaster Wayne Wambles continues to give the people of the Gulf Coast what they want. First and foremost, this includes their widely popular Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. The 11% Imperial Russian Stout is quite literally the talk of the town when it’s released annually at the beginning of March, coinciding with Tampa Beer Week. If you don’t feel like fighting the voracious hordes that descend upon the brewery for this Mayan-inspired, supernaturally-spiced, head-thwacker, rest assured that any other day of the calendar year is a perfect time to make a trek to CCB.
Named after Tampa’s underutilized moniker, Cigar City boasts of a slew of stalwarts, including their wildly popular Jai Alai IPA. Unusually refreshing given its heavy-handed style, it pours perfect from the can on a hot Southern Florida afternoon. Their canning line is ramping up over the next few months so expect to soon see six-packs of this spectacular IPA as well as their Hotter Than Helles Lager, Florida Cracker White Ale, and Maduro Brown hitting shelves up and down the Sunshine State.
On a quiet, uneventful Wednesday, I was able to enjoy an in-depth tour of the facilities–including their extensive barrel-aging program–and taste a number of hard-to-find one-offs on tap. The Peach IPA was a noteworthy standout. Given my aversion to sweet beer, I had my suspicions but was not expecting a well-balanced burst of hops to counteract the smooth initial essence of stone fruit. Their Humidor Series features ales aged atop Spanish Cedar, for a robust finish that evokes a finely-rolled Cuban cigar. I tried the Double American Black Ale and was so impressed by its big flavor and delicate body, I couldn’t resist taking a bottle home.
The tasting room also features several arcades, a shuffleboard table and, naturally, a dedicated growler-filling station. No matter what you’re into, Cigar City has something in store to float your boat. A visit to Tampa is hardly complete without stopping at the brewery that celebrates what this fine city is all about.