It's time once again for us to gird our livers in preparation for another home football weekend. As a season ticket holder, I pride myself on my ability to wake up before the sun is up and start consuming beer on Wisconsin football Saturdays. As a guy who works at a bar, my Saturdays have been spent either actually working behind that bar or recovering from having worked 24 of the previous 48 hours. I have yet to make it back to Madison for a game this season, and the matchup against the South Florida Bulls will prove no different. I, embarrassingly, won't even have a beer during the game since I'll have to be at work by 2 p.m.
Despite all of these warning signs, I need you to trust me that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to Florida beer. I've had quite a bit of experience with the two breweries I'm going to discuss. Enough with my sad life story, let's talk beer!
Before we get started, USF, or the University of South Florida, is located in Tampa. Tampa is in "south Florida" like Michigan residents are the "champions of the west" or the champions of the state of Michigan or the champions of anything. really. Man, Michigan blows. Anyways, USF is located in the southern part (there we go!) of central Florida and there has been a burgeoning craft beer scene there for a few years now.
No beer post about Tampa would be complete, or even fit for print, without mentioning the world-class brewery that calls Tampa home. Cigar City Brewing is the finest beer purveyor in Tampa, and arguably in Florida. I've been lucky enough to try a couple of their beers while visiting my parents in the Philadelphia suburbs and boy howdy, does Cigar City live up to the hype. Harkening to Tampa's rich history of tobacco making, Cigar City's beers are named after aspects of cigar culture. The two beers that I tried were the Jai Alai Pale Ale and the Maduro Brown Ale.
The pale ale was hop forward at 70 IBUs, and citrusy and delicious. The Maduro Brown expressed flavors of chocolate and coffee while also smelling a bit like your grandfather after he was done smoking a cigar. It's the perfect beer for a brewery named after cigar production. Both beers have won multiple awards and both beers probably deserve more. For you beer nerds, the reason you may have heard of Cigar City is because of their Hunaphu's Day. Akin to Three Floyd's Dark Lord Day, Hunaphu's Day is Cigar City's annual party to celebrate the release of Hunaphu Imperial Stout. A jet-black imperial stout that has hints of coffee, chocolate and vanilla, and pours like motor oil. It's rated no lower than a 99 on any beer ratings site worth its salt and is desired the world over by beer nerds. It is extremely rare, since it is only sold on Hunaphu's Day and only at the brewery in Tampa. If you want to try this bad boy, you're going to have to have some generous friends or a lot to trade someone.
The second brewery worth checking out in Tampa isn't a Florida brewery at all, but it does brew my favorite beer of all time. Yuengling Brewing stated off in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and is the oldest brewery in America. Their beer reminds me of home and drinking when I was not even legally allowed to attend R-rated movies by myself. Now, Yuengling Lager is nowhere near the best beer I've ever had; it is a decent lager that has more flavor than Budweiser, but it is my favorite and the Yuengling story is extremely interesting. As the brewery expanded southward, it needed another facility to meet growing demand, and thus the Tampa branch of the Yuengling brand was born.
Have a great weekend of tailgating, y'all, and make sure you have at least two for me. I'll be at work.