Time for a road trip, guys. Let’s head on down to Tampa Bay, a city quickly becoming one of my favorites for beer in Florida.
Tampa’s brewing history is actually vast and storied. From 1897 to 1963, Tampa’s breweries supplied South Florida, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, Cuba and the party scene of Ybor City. Not even Prohibition could slow them down too much. When Florida Brewing Co. was raided by federal agents and shut down, the court system actually ruled in favor of the brewery and allowed them to re-open.
Unfortunately, large, commercial breweries set up outposts in the area. Deeper pockets and utilization of cheaper ingredients led to less-expensive offerings for customers. Unable to compete, the locally-owned operations began to suffer greatly. Then, Fidel Castro rose to power and the new Communist regime meant no more Florida beer for Cuba. Tampa brewing all but dried up.
When craft beer began to make its resurgence in the 1990s, people in the party city found themselves inspired. Much like the speed of the roller coasters in the theme parks that define the tourism trade of central Florida, Tampa’s brewing scene came roaring back in thrilling fashion.
Tampa Bay Brewing Co. is one of my favorite must-do destinations. Established in 1995, Ybor City’s only microbrewery not only makes and sells nothing but their own awesome beer, their food is fantastic as well. If you find yourself down that way, order their pan-bronzed pierogies and a glass of Wild Warthog Hefeweizen. I will accept gift cards as a thank you.
Cigar City Brewing has been on the scene for a mere five years and already boasts dozens of individual flavors and styles from their history. Their Hunapu Imperial Stout is a brewery-only, single-day special release and is widely-considered one of America’s best and most-anticipated brews. The brewery recently expanded to include cider and contract brewing production.
Brew Bus is a collaboration effort made at Cigar City. Originally made in small batches for bus rides around town on beer tours, it’s now being offered across the state. Out of the few we’ve picked up so far, it’s their fruit ale that’s got me thinking.
You’re My Boy, Blue is more than a clever reference to the movie Old School. As fruit ale goes this one shows remarkable balance where others tend to be syrupy and heavy-handed. Pale purple with a tottering, rocky head of foam, Blue comes at you straightforward. Light, fresh scents and flavors of blueberry muffin mingle with faint lemon from the wheat base along with a Saltine cracker quality. The finish is crisp with the wheat-berry combo making the mouth water for another sip.
Just another example of how vibrant the Tampa brewing scene has become. Welcome to the party, Brew Bus!