Tuesday Travels: Cigar City and Sunshine!

We traveled to Tampa for a weekend getaway with one purpose in mind: Craft Beer. And more specifically, to visit Cigar City Brewing. We had entered the waiting list lottery last Fall for the El Catador Club and lo and behold, we won! The El Catador Club is Cigar City’s barrel-aged beer club. For a fee, you receive 5 different BA beers along with a few other perks. These bottles must be picked up within 30 days of the 5th beer’s bottling. Which in this case meant we had a trip to Florida to take in Winter! When you live in Michigan, a trip to Florida in January is welcomed with open arms. You start to forget what the sun looks like after awhile around here.

With no desire to spend money on a rental car, we kept our destinations to within Tampa so we could travel via Uber. After arriving late Friday night, we started Saturday with a trip to the east side of Tampa to check out Coppertail Brewing. We loved this place. The tasting room was huge with cathedral ceilings, copper accents everywhere and giant windows looking into the brewing facility. I wish we had been there on a weekday to see the brewhouse in action. The staff was very friendly and helpful in explaining the different beers. We each got a flight of 4 beers so we could try a wide variety of what they had to offer. I pretty much loved everything. The beers lived up to their descriptions and styles. From the core beers like Wheat Stroke, an easy drinking wheat, to the specialty brews like Sometimes You Don’t, a chocolate coconut porter that made me think I was drinking chocolate milk we were happy with everything we tried.

We were reluctant to leave when the beers were gone but it was time to move on to the next stop, the heart of Ybor City and The Tampa Bay Brewing Company. One of the reasons we wanted to go there was because of the outdoor seating and the full restaurant. We did find a table right away on the obviously popular patio. Our server seemed to be a bit bothered by the crowd and then told us we couldn’t do a flight because “Everyone else is doing flights so I don’t have any glasses for you.” Well, that’s a shame even though I only saw three tables with flights. You really don’t have enough glasses for more than 3 flights at a time? We didn’t push it. We each had one beer and an appetizer and left. (The beer cheese was good!)

Instead of having lunch at TBBC, we decided to go with our Uber driver’s recommendation and head to the famous Columbia restaurant. This is Florida’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1905, serving Spanish/Cuban food and home to the original Cuban Sandwich. Note to self: Don’t try to change the recipe by asking for no mustard, it confuses the kitchen. Why would you mess with perfection? After lunch, we walked around the historic Ybor City enjoying the scenic 6th and 7th avenues with its palm trees, brick covered roads and, of course, the sunshine!

And then it was time to head to the main event, Cigar City Brewing! Recently named the #4 brewery in the country by Ratebeer.com, this brewery has been at the top of our list to check out for awhile. Until recently, their beer was only distributed in Florida and Philadelphia but their reach is starting to expand. (They were recently acquired by Oskar Blues beer company who also owns Grand Rapids brewery Perrin Brewing which brewed Cigar City’s flagship IPA Jai Alai last month. Hopefully, that means more CCB in GR soon!) Anyway, located in an unassuming industrial area, the Cigar City taproom isn’t anything to go crazy for in looks but it makes up for it in beer. 25 taps in the main taproom and 12 in the growler/crowler filling bar made up of mainstays, special releases and tap room only options. This time itwas 3 flights to get through everything we wanted to try. From the Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale to the Strawberry Margarita Gose that was a cocktail in a beer glass, most everything was exceptional. Sadly we did not organize ourselves enough to get a tour of the brewing facility but I highly recommend it if you go. After debating about splurging on a bottle of 2013 Hunahpu’s ($75! Couldn’t do it…), we grabbed our El Catador club bottles and headed to our last stop for the day.

Angry Chair Brewing, located in hipster Seminole Heights neighborhood, is a small taproom only spot sporting zombie paintings, loud music and some of the most comfortable bar stools you will ever sit in. We were immediately greeted by two bartenders who had us laughing from start to finish off our visit. The tap list offered something for everyone from IPAs to Sours and everything in between but it was the dessert stouts that had my eye. The Geiger’s Salted Chocolate Sweet Stout is what got us in the door but the Dulce de Pepe, a coffee milk stout, was what made me want to stay forever. It tasted like my favorite iced caramel latte but with a 10.5% ABV, I had to resist ordering more before it turned into one of those kinds of nights.

After a long day of drinking, we spent our Sunday by the pool before we had to had to head to the airport. Our pasty white, Midwest skin wasn’t quite sure what to make of that big yellow thing in the sky but we enjoyed every second of this quick trip. Plus look at what we got to bring home!

There are many more breweries in the Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater area to hit up when you come to this area. Where should we go next time?

Did you like this post? Want to read more about my craft beer travels? Check out: Sunday Sips: Running the Brewgrass or click on the “Travel” category over to the right for more. And if you REALLY like it, please share it via those little buttons below.

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