Cigar City Brewing

It was Vicente Martinez Ybor, a Spanish immigrant from Cuba, who brought cigar manufacturing to Tampa in the 1880s, and along with it, the Spanish-influenced architecture that still defines the town’s most historic neighborhood:  brick factories, ornate balconies shading the sidewalks, elegant social clubs, and rows of casitas. It became known as Ybor City, and it put Tampa on the map. The Florida Brewing Company, still the tallest building in Ybor City, was built by Vicente Ybor over a natural spring, the perfect place for Florida’s first brewery.  It opened its doors in 1897.  

Local brewing in Tampa thrived, even during Prohibition, until national breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz came to town in the 1960s.  

Today the biggest tourist attraction in Tampa is an amusement park named after one of those national breweries, but people flock there more for roller coasters than for beer (even though it’s free). While more than a century of brewing tradition led to Busch Gardens, it also laid a foundation for a thriving craft beer scene that has emerged as an attraction of its own in recent years. Now there are more than 40 local breweries in Tampa Bay, and some, like Cigar City Brewing, are ranked among the best in the country.

Cigar City was established by Tampa native and craft beer enthusiast Joe Redner, Jr.  He felt Tampa’s unique heritage was relatively unknown outside the region, so he made it his mission to mix in a little history with each brew.CCB Jai AlaiMany of the names pay homage to Florida history: Jai alai (our official house beer) has been a popular gambling sport in Florida for almost 100 years; Tocobaga, the Native American tribe of Tampa Bay;  Invasion, brewed in honor of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival; and Florida Cracker, which refers to the colonial-era settlers of Florida.  Some, like Guava Grove are brewed with Florida fruit. One of my favorites, Cubano Espresso, is made with local Buddy Brew coffee.  If you prefer hard cider, they’ve always got one on tap. (Check out Cigar City Cider & Mead for lots more.)

Cigar City is conveniently situated behind Home Depot, which I suspect was a strategic move on their part. Now the garden department is perfumed with the smell of toasty malt, a surefire way to lure weekend warriors to the tasting room, derailing those home improvement plans.

When we’ve got beer-loving friends in town we take a tour of the brewery. It’s only $8, and you get to sample beers along the way. They’ll give you a special pint glass to take home, too.beerInside the tasting room there’s a long list of brews on tap, including small-batch creations only available there. They’ve got some guest taps with beer from other breweries as well.ccbtastingroomIt’s not called Cigar City for nothing.  You can watch master cigar rollers at work.Rolling cigars at CCBIf you want to smoke one, you’ll have to step out on the porch. You’re not relegated to the porch if you bring your dog along, though. They’re welcome, even in the tap room.  
food truckThere’s a food truck at the brewery seven days a week. You’ll find anything from arepas to pho, and it all tastes good with beer.  Here’s the schedule.  
ccbflightCigar City represents everything I love about this city, old and new. 

If you’d like to find out more about Florida breweries, here’s a book and a couple websites:

The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide by Mark DeNote

Tampa Bay on Tap

Interactive Beer Map of Florida



2 Comments Cigar City Brewing

  1. Emily September 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    I was just here in August and loved it! tampa had so many awesome breweries, I hope to go back soon!

    1. suwanneerose September 15, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks, Emily! We feel so lucky to have them all! I see you hit all my favorites while you were here. I love following your travels on Em’s on the Road! Lovely photos. 🙂

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