Cigar City Brewing launched in Tampa, Fla., in 2009 and swiftly became a cult favorite. Claims to fame include its tropical Jai Alai IPA, now one of the top-selling beers in the U.S.; Maduro Brown Ale, which took home a gold medal from the 2018 Great American Beer Festival; and Hunahpu, an imperial stout that garnered an annual festival of the same name.
In 2016, Cigar City sold to Canarchy, a group backed by private equity firm, Fireman Capital Partners, joining up with industry leader Oskar Blues in a group that collectively comprises one of the top 10 brewing companies in the nation. Since joining Canarchy, Cigar City has topped the charts.
Here are 11 more things you should know about Cigar City.
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Cigar City is the fastest-growing top craft brewery in the country.
Its success is largely due to its positioning in the Canarchy craft brewery collective, the 10th-largest craft brewer in the country. The brewery attributes its growth to an overhaul of packaging design; the release of its ultra-popular Jai Alai IPA in 12-packs as well as 16-ounce cans; and the introduction of a new year-round offering, Guayabera Citra Pale Ale.
It’s going higher than the High End.
Cigar City expects to produce more than 140,000 barrels of beer in 2018. If so, it will surpass year-to-date growth of Anheuser-Busch InBev craft brands Golden Road, Elysian, and Karbach.
Cigar City makes the best-selling craft can 6-pack.
According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA is the No. 1 selling craft can 6-pack in U.S. grocery stores.
Jai Alai is also the third-fastest-growing brand among brewers in the Brewers Association’s top 50 list, behind ABI’s Elysian Space Dust IPA and Molson Coors’ Blue Moon White IPA.
Cigars (and beer) are rolled into its history.
The name Cigar City refers to Tampa’s history of cigar production, dating back to the late 1800s when Cuban trader Vicente Ybor brought his cigar factories to Tampa (specifically, to the area known today as Ybor City). According to Cigar City, in 1896 Ybor’s second in command created Florida’s first brewery, the Ybor City Brewing Company.
Chefs do it best.
Cigar City head brewer Wayne Wambles was originally a cook and loved the scientific aspect of beer-recipe creation. “It’s like gourmet cooking with chemistry,” he said.
Wambles’ culinary influence can easily be seen in Cigar City beers like Florida Cracker, a Belgian-style wit brewed with coriander and orange peel; and Hunahpu Imperial Stout, aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, and cinnamon.
Hunahpu is a mythical beast, and a beast of a beer.
Each year on the second Saturday in March, thousands of people attend Hunahpu’s Day, a festival at which Cigar City exclusively releases its sought-after Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. The adjunct-laden, 11-percent ABV stout gets its name from Mayan mythology: Hun Hunahpu was tricked and killed by the Dark Lords of the underworld. His corpse morphed into a cacao tree, which eventually impregnated a maiden who birthed twins named Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The hero twins avenged their father’s death and became the moon and the sun.
Every nombre has una historia.
Cigar City’s Latin American roots are present in many of its brands. The flagship Maduro Brown Ale refers to the Maduro-wrapped cigars; Jai Alai IPA refers to the Basque sport that was, for a time, popular in Tampa; and Guayabera is a nod to a traditional Latin American shirt.
Cigar City opened the first airport brewery.
In 2013, Cigar City and restaurant group HMSHost debuted Cigar City Brewing in Tampa International Airport, the first craft brewery in a North American airport. The operation was remodeled and relaunched in 2018 with two bars and an extended menu. The brewery includes a three-barrel system with a special batch brewed each month that’s only available on site.
In addition to the Airside C brewpub, a second Cigar City Taproom opened in Airside F in 2017.
It’s all thanks to a hurricane.
Cigar City’s head brewer, Wayne Wambles, grew up in a small Alabama town where craft beer was scarce. One day, a hurricane kept Wambles and a friend inside for three days, and they passed the time by (what else?) drinking beer and playing cards. “I realized beer is really good,” Wambles told BeerAdvocate in 2010. The rest is history.
Skol! Cigar City’s next stop is Scandinavia.
In September, Cigar City announced its beers would become available in Scandinavia. Via partnership with Great Brands AB of Stockholm, Cigar City began distributing kegs and cans to Sweden, Finland, and Norway. This is Cigar City’s first full-time international distribution deal.
It doesn’t stop at beer.
In 2012, Cigar City founder Joey Redner launched a side project called Cigar City Cider & Mead. Originally, the cider was contract-produced by a local winery, but by spring 2014 the operation launched its own brick and mortar facility in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, in what was previously Tampa Bay Brewing.