A quick cruise up Dale Mabry Highway into the Northdale area and the signs are unmistakable: the black awnings, the iron sign with “CCB” cut from it, and the brewing vessels in the window—it’s not a delusion of grandeur, it’s the Cigar City Brewpub, and it is about to spring to life on April 1st.
Upon entering the pub, the dark wood interior and “La Setima” signs give a nod to Tampa and the culture that molded the city. Like all projects that Cigar City Brewing undertakes, the brewpub is done differently, and includes a nod to history, including the brewery’s past. The wall is adorned with beer-spirational quotes and pictures of Cigar City employees that have helped bring the brewery to its current level of success. Brewers Wayne Wambles, Ben Romano, and Tim Ogden all decorate the walls and look out over the dining area as guests try the beers that they helped create. The restaurant also features the Cigar City equivalent of hidden pictures: look closely around the pub to find labels, pictures, and memorabilia of beers brewed once, never to be seen again. Finally, the wood panels hold some of the brewery’s secrets- namely the barrels that have help make Cigar City Brewing famous in the beer industry. The same barrels that once held Barrel-aged Hunahpu, Capricho Oscuro, Leon, and many other treats laid to rest in wood are rearranged to panel part of the dining room and bar. All of these touches combine to make brewers’ tools functional décor for a pub celebrating the brewers’ art.
The brewpub is the brainchild of Cigar City’s owner Joey Redner with the culinary expertise of Chef Nicolay Adinaguev matching Tampa-inspired Cuban food with beers made on site by Cigar City brewer Tim Ogden. The idea is to match locally grown ingredients with sauces and dressings made in the restaurant to bear a minimum carbon footprint. The food is then prepared and served with beer made a few feet from the table, or in some instances beer from around the state of Florida, showcasing the breweries currently involved in Florida’s craft beer renaissance. According to the sample menu at cigarcitybrewpub.com, then brewpub will have two standard beers, a blonde ale dubbed “La Rubia” and a witbier dubbed “The Fountain of Youth.” For the weekend, Ogden was showcasing a cask of Belgian porter treated with coffee, habanero peppers, chocolate, and cardamom. It was roasty, chococlatey, and had a polite pepper presence with minimal bite. As with all things related to Cigar City, expectations are high when it comes to the beer.
Chef Nicolay put together food with more winners than the Super Bowl Buccaneers roster: a jar of kimchi made on site (and served in the jar), salads with local kale, beets, and hominy, Ropa Vieja with sauce made from Maduro brown ale, black bean cakes with a roasted cumin sauce, and tater tots made from plantains. Not to be outdone by the meal, dessert featured a brownie named for Cigar City’s infamous stout, Hunahpu. The brownie featured layers of flavor, much like the beer; chocolate, cinnamon, and some other mild spices emerged all in their time and allowed each of the other flavors to shine with the combination. For this party of two that dined at the Cigar City pub, the brewpub matched gastropub and restaurant feel with a Tampa twist, and all came out full and satisfied.
The bottom line is that Cigar City Brewing has birthed a pub to match its reputation for world-class beer. The next major milestone in the pub’s life will be the grand opening, followed closely by the day when the onsite brewery begins filling the taps. Cheers to a great experience.
The Cigar City Brewpub is located at 15491 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. The phone number is (813) 962-1274, and the grand opening will be on Monday, April 1st. For more information visit the brewpub’s Facebook page or website.