Tag Archives: Tampa Florida

Cigar City Brewing Company Hunahpu’s Day 2014 set, but with changes

hunahpu_2014Last year Hunahpu’s Day at Cigar City was a lot of fun. It was also flawed. By midnight the night before the release there was already a hefty line of beer hounds queued up to gain access to the event. A few hours later there were more than 300 lined up. By the time the sun came up the line stretched several blocks, into nearby businesses parking lots with thousands of beer lovers. This prompted the businesses to call the police who consequently issued the ultimatum to the brewery that they either open the event early and get the people off the street or it would be shut down.

Another issue with the event was poor line management, particularly for the most popular beers. Lines for some were hours long and unscrupulous imbibers routinely cut into the line making the wait even longer for those behind them. And worse still, the folks pouring the beer were hired from a staffing agency and had no experience serving. This made for confusion and foamy beer.

To try and cut down on these issues for this year’s event, the brewery has decided to make the event a ticketed festival with maximum attendance set at 3,500. Attendees will not have to purchase tokens to exchange for tastes, instead the single admission ticket will entitle them to sample as many beers as they like for the duration of the event.

In an announcement posted to FaceBook, December 30, the brewery said that bottles of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout would be available throughout the day. Details on bottle limit have not been announced yet.

The Cigar City Brewing Company Hunahpu’s Day event will take place March 8, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the brewery in Tampa, Fla. Tickets will cost $50. Ticket purchase details have not been released yet, but the brewery has said that members of their El Catador Club will have first opportunity to get the tickets.

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Beer, Beer Festival, Events


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World of Beer set to open on Jacksonville’s Southside


Last September an article appeared on this blog about the soon to be open World of Beer on the Southside in the Tinseltown area. At that time the estimated opening date was November 2012. Then, in October, another article appeared here that said the opening date had been moved to February 2013. Well, those articles were clearly not accurate. But, take heart! World of Beer – Southside is definitely opening next week to the great relief of its owners and management and the great enthusiasm of Jacksonville beer lovers.

World of Beer started in 2007 as the dream of two entrepreneurs from Pensacola. Scott Zepp and Matt LaFon, brain-stormed and opened the first World of Beer in the Westchase community of Tampa, Fla. Since then things have only gone up. In 2010 the duo’s concept caught the eye of former Outback Steakhouse president Ben Novello and former Outback Steakhouse Executive Jim Pollard. With the backing of these industry titans, World of Beer (known affectionately as WoB) expended its concept of an approachable craft beer bar nationwide.

In fact, according to the company’s website, World of Beer is, “…is a truly uncommon establishment where the experience is as essential as the product.” And this philosophy is evident in the extensive training the company puts all new-hires through. Before any team member can hit the floor of a WoB location, they must go through two weeks of Beer School where they learn not only what beers they will serve, but also the history, flavor profiles and characteristics of the brews they will serve.

The website goes on to say, “…having the most extensive beer selection is not enough. It is important that a broad spectrum of patrons, from the beer aficionado to the casual beer fan, can enjoy the best beers on the planet and increase their beer knowledge in a comfortable and upbeat setting. By combining a friendly environment with an exceptionally knowledgeable staff, World of Beer creates an atmosphere where patrons feel at home, as if they are visiting a neighbor and not just a neighborhood bar.”

Tony Vera, General Manager of the store opening next week in Jacksonville, has been with the company two and a half years and is a believer in the company’s deeply-rooted belief that craft beer should be approachable to all.

“Hospitality and product knowledge are what separate us from other bars,” Vera says. “Our goal is to be a neighborhood bar where you can go to meet great people and enjoy great beer.” It does not hurt that his store will open with 50 craft beers on tap and approximately 550 bottled beers.

“We have an entire cooler of Belgian beers that includes an entire shelf of Trappist ales. We also have a cooler of German beers, and a wide selection of craft ciders.”

To encourage guests to continuously learn about and taste news beers, WoB also has a Loyalty club that rewards members for trying new beers. “It costs $15 to sign up, but for that you immediately get a WoB t-shirt,” Vera says. “At different levels of achievement members get different awards. At 50 different beers tasted, members receive a commemorative t-shirt; at 100 they get a mug. But, when member reach 250 different beers they get a plaque with the saying of their choice on it, displayed at the store for all to see along with a commemorative polo-style shirt.” Vera went on to say that elite members who reach the 500 different beers mark get a catered party with a $250 bar tab.

There are also nightly specials to entice guests to visit. On Mondays, service and health care industry workers enjoy 50% off select drafts from 9:00 p.m. to close. Tuesdays are reserved for Loyalty Card holders who receive 25% off all bottles – the better to drive up their tally towards those great rewards. On Wednesdays college students and faculty get half off select drafts from 9:00 p.m. until close. Ladies get 50% off wine and select drafts all day Thursdays along with active duty and retired military. As if that were not enough, one Sunday per month WoB hosts a Customer Appreciation cookout. And, do not forget about happy hour weekdays until 7:00 p.m. when all drafts and wine is $1 off.

Vera also shared that WoB – Southside plans to obtain several firkins that it will ask local breweries to fill with special treatments of their brews for the exclusive enjoyment of their guests. He also expressed that he is interested in putting in a beer engine that would further educate and delight guests on real ales.

The first Jacksonville World of Beer is schedule to open to the public on Monday, July 1st. The list of brews on tap opening day is impressive and held rather close to the vest. But, after a bit of arm-twisting, portions of the list were shared for publication here.

Look for these beers on tap opening day:

Dogfish Head 61 Minute IPA
• Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
• Petrus Aged Pale
• Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot
• Pyramid Weiss Cream
• Chimay White
• St. Bernardus Abt. 12
• Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
• Victory V12
• Dogfish Head Aprihop
• Stone Self Righteous
• Brooklyn Silver Anniversary

In addition to the fanfare, and exceptional tap list, of opening day, plan of swinging by Wednesday, July 3rd for a huge Intuition Ale Works event that will feature 25 kegs of the Riverside brewery’s beers and visits by the owner and brewer, Ben Davis.

Vera, who started with WoB as the GM of the chain’s second store located in Sarasota, Fla., says that the Southside store is only the beginning for North Florida. He is charged with helping to develop the area and has his sights on opening locations in Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine. If the success of the company at its other locations is any indication, Vera’s dreams are likely to soon become a reality.

World of Beer — Jacksonville Southside is located at 9700 Deer Lake Court. Hours of operation are 12:00 noon to 2:00 a.m. daily.

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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Pubs


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Hunahpu’s Day a joyous celebration despite some issues

hunapuhsThousands of hopeful beer enthusiasts lined up in the dark streets of Tampa, FL in the wee hours of the morning Saturday. Some brought chairs to make their wait a little more comfortable; at least one intrepid soul brought a hammock that he strung between two trees. The throngs were gathered at Cigar City Brewing Company, waiting for their chance to purchase the brewery’s annual Hunahpu’s Day to begin. All in line were there in hopes of procuring their allotment of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, an annually-released, and much sought after beer that is a mélange of chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and chili peppers.

Standing in line for a big release like Hunahpu’s is a uniquely social event. Beer aficionados are a gregarious and generous bunch. While discussing the finer points of other big release brews, it is likely that someone may open up a cooler, reach inside and pull out a bottle that is promptly opened and shared. The sharing often prompts discussion of the flavors evident and the process by which the brewer elicited them from the ingredients. It seemed that everywhere one looked people were laughing, talking, and sharing good beer.

But, even at the most joyous of beer events, things go wrong. Just after dawn, the Tampa police department appeared and announced that the line, which had spilled into the parking lot of a nearby retail parking lot, had to be condensed because the retailer had complained. This prompted the gates the Brewery to be opened sooner than expected. Once inside, more lines formed for tokens that had to be used to purchase beer, and for shirts and glasses.

And then there were the beer lines. At one point, early in the day, lines were more than two hours long. These lines were not the boisterous fun lines that had defined the pre-dawn hours of Hunahpu’s Day, these were unorganized lines marred by inconsiderate cutters who merely walked to the front of the line effectively disrespecting those who were trying to follow the rules and wait patiently. The shame of it is that it could have been avoided with better planning. A few well-placed stanchions and ropes could have cut down on the line cutting and helped things to remain better organized.

Another issue that could have been handled better was the beer servers. Many were inexperienced and slow. Many guests were handed beers that were more than half foam. Others were served beers that were only partially full. But, perhaps the biggest sin of all was understaffing. The beer trailer, were some of the best and most sought after beers were being poured had only three servers and a line that grew to more than two and a half hours long.

But, issues aside, the spirit of the event was festive. Coolers full of beer brought by attendees were enthusiastically poured for others for no other reason than to share. People discussed the finer points of their favorite beers, ate food from one of the ten food trucks on hand, and socialized. Perhaps what makes an event like this so great is the social aspect. Beer, after all, has always been a social beverage. This truth has never been more evident than at an event like Hunahu’s day.

In the end, Cigar City distributed more than 10,000 bottle of the Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. All of the wristbands they promised to hand out were distributed before the end of the line was reached, but at the end of the day, there were still bottle of the brew left for those who did not have a wristband and waited until after 5:00 p.m. The event, even with issues, was a successful celebration of craft beer that attracted folks from as far away as Sweden. If that is not an indicator of the reach and popularity of craft beer, nothing is.


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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Beer, Beer Festival


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Sweetwater brews to flow into Tampa area Oct. 15

It’s always a good thing when a new beer enters a market. It provides consumers with yet another choice for a tasty, quality beer to drink and expands the craft beer scene. In just a few short weeks, Sweetwater Brewing Company will do just that and begin serving several of their flagship brews in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area of Florida.

“After an arduous and comprehensive wholesaler assignment process,” Sweetwater Director of Sales, Dave Guender began. “We are glad to announce that we’ve selected Pepin Distributing Company for the Tampa market, and Great Bay Distributors for St. Petersburg and Clearwater.”

Sweetwater will bring their tent pole 420 Extra Pale Ale to bars and restaurants throughout the area beginning Oct. 15. Later in the week 12-ounce bottles of 420, Sweetwater Blue, and Sweetwater IPA will hit store shelves.

Along with the roll out of Sweetwater brews, the company is planning several days of launch parties and events. Founder and Big Kahuna Freddie Bensch will join the festivities to help his 15-year-old company hop things up in Tampa. Among the events are:

Wednesdays, Oct. 17

  • Pub crawl featuring SweetWater samplings, specials and meet-and-greet with Freddy in Tampa (times/locations TBD)

Thursday, Oct. 18

  • Pub crawl featuring SweetWater samplings, specials and meet-and-greet with Freddy  in St. Petersburg (times/locations TBD)

Friday, Oct. 19

  • SweetWater’s presents Olde Bay Café’s Craft Beer & Crab Festival at Edgewater Park in Dunedin from 2-10 p.m.
  • Brews featured at Safety Harbor 3rd Friday in downtown Safety Harbor from 6-10 p.m.
  • SweetWater will be flowing at the JJGrey & Mofro show at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg at 8 p.m.

Follow the brewery’s Florida events on its Florida Facebook page for updates on events and appearances at:

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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Beer, Beer News, Craft Beer Brewery


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Kickback’s Throws a Dinner Party with Cigar City & St. Somewhere

The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot these days. It has
become par to of the popular vernacular especially among the younger
generation. It suggests something that is very imposing or impressive,
something that surpasses the ordinary. With this in mind, it is safe to say
that the Beer Dinners held periodically at Kickback’s Gastropub in
Riverside/Avondale are epic.

The most recent culinary and zymological wonder took place
Monday, August 29, starting at 6:30. The beer pairings for that night were 38
beers from both Cigar City Brewing in Tampa and St. Somewhere Brewing Company
in Tarpon Springs. Both are legendary breweries in their own rights, each with
their own style and flair. Cigar City is known for their superb Jai Alai IPA
with its over-the-top hoppiness, attained through the use of six different
types of hops, and its upright malt backbone that balances the hops to create a
remarkable – and highly awarded – IPA. St. Somewhere, on the other hand, is an
acolyte of the Belgian style of brewing, producing exceptional saisons and
Belgian-style ales with aroma and taste profiles that keep their groupies
coming back for more.

The beers were paired with an eight course meal created
especially for the beers presented. This included several courses prepared by
guest chefs who are just as passionate about beer as they are about food.
Several items were finished with sauces by local Jacksonville sauce producer
Bander’s Butt Sauce.

As the evening began, the heat outside made the cool, dark
environs of Kickback’s even more appealing than normal. Steve Flores, the
wizard behind these magical dinners and owner of Kickback’s, did his best to
control the sweating, excited crowds filing in, he and his seasoned staff
herding guests to their assigned seats. The tables were set with three tasting
glasses per setting along with a placemat that detailed the night’s offerings.

A virtual Who’s Who of the Jacksonville beer Preferiti were in attendance in addition to
luminary guests from further lands. An intrepid table even trekked down from
Athens, GA to enjoy the beer and food. Folks like Steve Rushe of,
Scott Hall, one of the owners of Tallahassee’s Fermentation Lounge, David Rigdon
from Team Hopheads, Eric Luman owner of Green Room Brewing, and Carolyn Graham
from Brown Distributers (and one of the masterminds behind the dinner) gathered
to drink, eat, laugh and learn about the dizzying number of brews offered.

And, of course, the
most honored of guest were the brewers and representatives from Cigar City and
St. Somewhere. Throughout the evening the brewers took turns talking about
their beer offerings and providing interesting insights into the processes that
went into making them. Joey Redner is the man behind Cigar City. As a Tampa
native Joey is passionate about beer, he has owned a bar and sold beer at a
number of levels. Bob Sylvester is the owner and brewer for St. Somewhere
Brewery, and is dedicated to brewing beers in the Belgian style using authentic
ingredients and traditional open-fermentation methods.

Speaking of beer,
there were so many it was difficult to keep notes on them all, however I did
manage to jot a few things down.

The reception beer
was the Cigar City flagship Jai Alai IPA a very hops forward beer that has set
a high standard for American IPAs. The second reception beer was Cigar City
Xenu Honey Cream Ale. For those of you unfamiliar with the teachings of L. Ron
Hubbard, founder of Scientology, Xenu is sort of the Scientology devil. And,
since Scientology is based near the Tampa area, Xenu Honey Cream Ale is a sly
nod to Scientologists everywhere.

The first food
course to arrive was beef tenderloins sliced then and wrapped around cucumber,
sweet red pepper, carrots, and garnished with light horseradish, served on a
bed of lettuce. With the appetizer, Cigar City El Lector – named for the men,
lectors, who read to the Tampa area cigar rollers before the days of radio.
Also served were Cigar City Minaret ESB and Cigar City Florida Cracker White

Between courses two
beers were typically served. Between courses one and two were two exceptional
saisons from St. Somewhere. Saison Athene was the first pour with wonderful
funk and spice flavors just as a good saison should have. But, it was the
second saison to be poured that really caught my attention. It was a twist on
the same beer but this time the Saison Athene was dry hopped with whole cone
Citra hops. The hops lent an herbaceous aroma and flavor to the already complex
saison and really amped up the flavor profile. This was one of my favorite
beers of the night.

Course two arrived
and for a few moments had me perplexed. I had never heard of anything called
tempeh. I n research for this article, I learned that it is a traditional soy product originally from
Indonesia employing a controlled fermentation process that binds
soybeans into a cake form. The patty was a bit dry for me, but had an
interesting texture and pleasant, spicy, nutty flavor that was accented by Jai
Alai vinaigrette. The beers paired with this dish were Cigar City Tocobaga Red,
named for the first inhabitants of the Tampa area, Cigar City Jai Alai Cedar
Aged IPA – Humidor Series, and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA – White Oak. Both the
cedar aged and white oak aged versions of the Jai Alai IPA lent new dimension
to the beer opening characteristics that go unnoticed in the pure version.

Intermezzo number
two offered a vertical tasting of Cigar City Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale,
edition 2009 and 2010. The “bolita” – Spanish for little ball – referred to in
the name of these brews is a reference to a lottery-like game of chance that
was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
within the Cuban and Hispanic communities of Florida. Essentially it was a scam
and became synonymous with a cheat. But, the beers that bear the name are
anything but cheats. Both displayed considerable character and richness, with
the older version truly opening to thick, rich, malty flavors.

Pork loin with
smoky cumin rub and stuffed with granny smith apple chutney and smoked gouda
served atop grilled asparagus spears and drizzled with Mama’s Southern Mustard
Sauce from Bander’s Butt Sauce came as the third course. This decadent dish was
served with the Cigar City/St. Somewhere colaborative brew Vuja De a sour
American Wild Ale with a pronounced tart character. It was also paired with Cigar
City Sea Bass – affectionately named for former Cigar City employee, Sebastian
– a refreshing saison and St. Somewhere Pay Du Soliel another stellar saison
from the Belgian-minded brewery.

The next between
courses pair pitted two Cigar City collaborations with Hill Farmstead of Vermont and Grassroots Brewing of Denmark, Either and Or against each other
with the winners being the drinkers. Both brews are dark, thick, chewy black
IPA brews that really play the hops up, but cut the bitterness with Thai Thai honey.

The next course
was prepared by Chef Michelle Ugarte of the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island’s
Salt Restaurant. Michelle has become something of a “resident guest chef” in
that she often prepares at least one dish for Kickbacks’ beer dinners. This
dinner saw her dish shine and was easily the favorite of everyone. The dish was
a preparation of seven pepper braised short rib spring rolls with salt-roasted
peach-harissa sauce and pickled red onion. This outstanding dish was served
with Cigar City Hillsborough River Irish Dry Stout, Cigar City Jose Marti India
Porter, and Cigar City Puppy’s Breath Porter.

After this things
began to get fuzzy and run together. But, one of the highlights was St.
Somewhere owner Bob Sylvester jumping on stage and giving a beatnik-poet diatribe about beers and yeasts to
the smooth sounds of the evening’s house band.

Towards the end of the night Chef Paul Crump presented
dessert, chocolate cheesecake with Grand Marnier biscotti crust and Chantilly
cream. This rich dessert was paired with Cigar City Tiramisu Sweet Stout, Cigar
City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale – Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Cigar City Good
gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

In the end many attendees just couldn’t hang with the
aggressive number of beers. But, for those of us who stuck it out to the end,
we were rewarded with an evening of lasting memories and wonderful food and

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Beer, Beer Dinner, Restaurant


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