Florida's homegrown beer scene has come a long way in recent years, what with Funky Buddha on the verge of opening a shiny new facility in Oakland Park, Holy Mackerel's recent tap room opening, and Due South Brewing blowing the lid off the local scene with less than a year in production.
One of the biggest names in Florida brews is undoubtedly Tampa's Cigar City Brewing, which has drawn interest from craft fans around the country despite how difficult it is to get outside of the state. Cigar City enjoys a strong fanbase in South Florida and will have a big presence during South Florida Beer Week, which kicks off on Saturday.
Clean Plate Charlie caught up with Cigar City's South Florida Representative Phil Palmisano for an email interview in advance of the week-long celebration of craft beer. Palmisano fills us in on where to find the brewery in the coming week, why cans are better than bottles, and what to expect from Cigar City as it closes in on its four-year anniversary.
Clean Plate Charlie: What will Cigar City be doing for South Florida Beer Week?
Palmisano: We are very excited for South Florida Beer Week this year, and while the week technically starts on January 19, we are doing two events as warm-up events the week before. This year we decided to pair up with a lot of our friends at other Florida breweries to try to spread the word about the amount of amazing beer that is being brewed in the Sunshine State. (Here's the CCB schedule:)
Thursday (Jan. 17) - Beer vs. Wine at Bash Cafe - This is our kick-off event for South Florida Beer Week. Five unique beers from Cigar City Brewing versus five unique wines paired with five plates of amazing food from Bash Cafe. Last year it was a close call but beer won the battle, and we are looking for the same result this year as well. Sells out quickly, RSVP soon.
Friday (Jan. 18) - Drink Like a Local Tap Takeover with Cigar City Brewing and Due South Brewing Company at The Backyard in Boynton Beach - Come out and enjoy some live music while drinking rare and unique beers from two local breweries.
Sunday (Jan. 20) - Craft Beer Putt Putt Golf at Putt'n Around in Delray Beach - Starting at noon, play 18 holes of golf how it is meant to be played; with a craft beer in hand. Special beers will be on draft from Cigar City Brewing and Due South Brewing. Also, cans of Jai Alai, Maduro, and Florida Cracker will be available. Once you're done with your round of golf, come out to the parking lot to play some tailgating games and relax.
Also on Sunday - Caja China Pig Roast with Cigar City at Sybarite Pig - A full pig will be cooked and available to eat, while selections of limited release beers from Cigar City Brewing are available on draft.
January 21 - The Blind Monk in West Palm Beach will be releasing a very limited keg of Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale as well as some very limited Cigar City bombers.
January 22 - Cigar City Brewing Night at Tap 42 in Ft. Lauderdale - Includes a limited tapping of Apple Cinnamon IPA.
January 23 - El Jefe Luchador & Cigar City Brewing Dinner - Five beers versus five delicious courses. Limited seating for this event, and it will go fast.
January 24 - BX Beer Depot presents Cigar City Brewing Treatment Night - Special releases and one-off treatments from Cigar City.
January 25 - Field of Beers - Special release/launch of Invasion Pale Ale.
January 26 - Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival
Will you debut any special beers/a special brew during the week?
We will be releasing a number of special one-off beers throughout the week. Fans of the brewery can keep their eyes open for White Oak IPA, Cafe Con Leche Sweet Stout, Apple Cinnamon IPA, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale, Peach IPA, Raspberry Wheat, and several others.
Have you found that Cigar City has a strong fanbase in South Florida? How has it grown in the past 12 months?
We are definitely seeing a growth of our fanbase in the state, especially in South Florida. Specifically, the growth this past year has been humbling and amazing all at the same time. As of today, we are keeping all of the beer that we brew in the state of Florida. Our goal is to make sure that our fans in our "backyard" are taken care of with their favorite beers, before we expand out of the state.
South Florida specifically is growing as a craft community. With the help of other local breweries in the area, the popularity of locally produced beer is increasing very fast. After all, fresh beer is the best beer.
Is Cigar City going to exclusively release certain beers -- like Jai Alai -- in cans from now on?
Yes, we made the move to cans and draft for our four core brands (Jai Alai IPA, Maduro Brown Ale, Florida Cracker Belgium White Ale, and Hotter Than Helles Lager) several months ago.
We are excited to have cans as it is much better for the beer. Being that we do not pasteurize our products, the can is a superior package to the bottle. Cans don't allow light or oxygen into the package, and these are two of the larger evils of spoiling beer. Our cans are produced in Tampa, through the Ball Company (the same company that works with Oskar Blues), so we keep our package purchases local instead of outside of the state.
Ball is a great company that produces a can that has a thin lining on the inside of the can that will not allow the beer to touch the aluminum, removing the possibility of that "tin taste" that cans have always been rumored to have.
Cans also fit the Florida lifestyle so much better than bottles; you can tailgate with them, take them on the boat, golf courses serve them, and you can go to the beach with them. Being that we are a brewery in Florida, we want you to have as much fun as possible with our product (responsibly of course).
Can you take us through the evolution/growth of Cigar City since its launch?
We are coming up on our four-year anniversary in March; crazy right? We now are running two breweries -- our original 15-barrel system and our new 30-barrel system -- new canning line and packaging area, we have a brew pub in the Tampa Airport (behind security), and have a brewpub opening soon in North Tampa. We currently employee 53 people in Tampa, and seem to always be looking for someone new to join our family.
What are some of the exciting new brews we can look forward to from Cigar City in the next year?
We are always experimenting with new treatments and recipes. As for what is on the horizon for us new beer wise, I can't really say. If you've been to the brewery lately there has been a lot of experimentation with pale ales: but who knows?
Cigar City is one of those breweries that seems willing to take risks and get adventurous with recipes. What have been some of the most successful?
This past year we had a prime example of this with our Cucumber Saison, which won a Bronze Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. We tried a few different things to get the cucumber flavoring into the beer in a natural way. Once we dialed-in the flavor, the sales of the beer went over very well, to the extent that it sold out almost immediately in South Florida, and created a large buzz nationally.
My personal favorite treament though is the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, which is a treatment of our Maduro Brown Ale, and it will make an appearance during South Florida Beer Week. It tastes just like an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Any other advice, insider information, or news you'd like to offer?
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