My Favorite Places – Cigar City Brewing
As we count down the final ten days to Tampa Bay Beer Week, I spent some time reflecting on my personal favorites in the bay Area for good beer. So much has changed and grown since I first start writing about craft beer in October of 2009, and I have been to so many great places, met so many great people, that it is hard to pin down only a few. But for the next ten days, I will pick some of my favorite places and tell you what I like about them.
It makes sense to start off with Cigar City Brewing. I do not think it is overstating the case to say that they have been the catalyst that has taken Florida beer into the spotlight, nationally and globally. Their beers are consistently ranked among the best in the world, they have won medals at nearly every major beer competition, and even been featured in high-profile national magazines. Their growth and expansion have been incredible, and their impact on the Tampa Bay area cannot be questioned.
But at the end of the day, these are not the things that bring you back to a place over and over, nor do they entice you to drink their beer on a regular basis. Joey Redner, founder and owner of Cigar City, was my very first ‘real’ interview when I started writing. He was friendly and inviting, gracious with his time, and honest and straightforward with his answers, and over the past two years he has continued to be so. Along with head brewer Wayne Wambles and VP Justin Clark, and the most excellent staff in the front and back of the brewery, Joey has made Cigar City a beer lovers destination.
It is no secret that the beers at Cigar City are amazing. Even their “normal” beers are exceptional. Jai Alai and Maduro are go-to beers for many of us who can get them. What really raises the bar (pun intended) is the Tasting Room & Beer Shrine. On any given day, thirsty travelers can sample from an assortment of year-round beers, special releases, tasting-room-only brews, and guest taps from around Florida. There is something for everyone. The staff behind the bar are knowledgeable, the music is usually funky and great, and you never know who you might run into!
Cigar City will be participating in numerous events during Tampa Bay Beer Week, some at the brewery, some off-site, but all will be worth checking out. Check out their website at www.cigarcitybrewing.com, as well as their event schedule on the TBBW site.