The need for some time away from work and the scheduling of a particular heavy metal band on tour brought me to Tampa Bay last weekend. This band is rather elusive in that they don’t often play very many shows in the U S of A and when they do, it’s always sold out within minutes of tickets on sale. So, months ago, striking while the iron was luke-warm, I managed to procure six seats a few yards short of nosebleed. But, hey, I finally got to see Iron Maiden live.
But that’s only three hours out of the day and I need some well-earned down time, especially after the always-annoying seven hour drive to south Florida. So what’s there to do in Tampa?
I know I always espouse going out of one’s way to try as much as possible, but we on the trip found the entertainment district of Ybor City to have plenty for us to do for a couple of days before tackling Busch Gardens and all those magnificent roller coasters. First stop was Tampa Bay Brewing Company on 8th Ave. A magnificent microbrewery and restaurant, TBBC always has nine house-made beers on tap (including hand-cranked cask!) and a diverse menu of killer pub chow… most of which has their own beer as the ingredients. Home-made pretzels with barleywine mustard and weizenbier pepperjack fondue, porter-onion soup and the tastiest shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had were all dynamite but all my friends on the trip would talk about were the pierogies stuffed with potato and topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms. They just wouldn’t shut up about them.
Now, I’m not a fan of the combustibles, particularly cigars. In Tampa it’s impossible to get away from them. I happen to think they smell like burning Chinese food but to others they’re divine. When I discovered that King Corona Cigars on 7th Ave had awesome beer I braved the acrid blue smoke for bottles of Smuttynose IPA and draft pours of St. Bernardus Abt. 12. And while others were chomping their double claros and colorados, I felt left out of the party so I did the next best thing and asked for a Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown. It’s a shame we didn’t get to the brewery for a tour (closed on Sunday). It’s local beer and it’s the closest a cigar is gonna get to my mouth. The Maduro is a beautiful brown ale with notes of nuts, chocolate and butter on the nose. The use of flaked toasted oatmeal gives it a dark brown color and toasty flavors of hazelnut, caramel and coffee with very expressive malt showing through.
All the cigar culture of Ybor City and without having to light a scented candle, the Maduro Brown is a nice beer from a nice town.