Saturday, July 21, 2018
Bars & Spirits

As two of Ratebeer's top 10 breweries, check out Cycle Brewing, Cigar City Brewing

The beer world is always changing. Hype rises and wanes; new styles and techniques come into favor while others become passe. One constant remains, in the form of online beer ratings and reviews: Metrics give us a snapshot of tastes and trends.

Each January, Ratebeer.com releases its Best Brewers in the World list, compiling 100 unranked breweries with the previous year’s top adjusted scores, weighted for recency, diversity in styles and other factors.

Two familiar names appear on this year’s Top 10 list: St. Petersburg’s Cycle Brewing and Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing. Both breweries have enjoyed sustained popularity in recent years, with demand for their output reaching far beyond the Tampa Bay area. Having both also appeared in last year’s Ratebeer’s Top 10, Cycle and Cigar City have now ranked two years in a row above another 24,000 or so that didn’t make the cut.

 

Cycle Brewing

Cycle founder Doug Dozark struck gold — oil may be a better metaphor — when he first tried his hand at barrel-aging at Peg’s Cantina, a now-defunct Gulfport restaurant that was Cycle’s original home before its current downtown St. Petersburg taproom.

The resulting beer was Rare DOS, a rich imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels that became an immediate cult hit, eventually growing into a robust range of flavored DOS spinoffs utilizing a variety of barrels and blending techniques, each becoming more sought after than the last.

These dense and decadent high-gravity brews are the primary reason for Cycle’s inclusion in the Top 10. As the brewery has grown, its barrel-aging capacity and output has, too, making it far easier for the average local fan to get their hands on one of Dozark’s prized barrel-aged creations. Check Cycle’s Facebook and Instagram pages for special release announcements, or just pop into the taproom — barrel-aged brews make frequent appearances.

While you’re there, try some beers representing Cycle’s other major strength: super fresh IPAs employing a variety of exotic, intensely flavored hops. Keep an eye out for beers in the Unicycle series, which give individual hop strains the spotlight, or try the brewery’s always-popular Crank IPA, an outstanding brew powered by aggressively fruity Citra hops.

 

Cigar City Brewing

Often credited as an impetus for the rise in Florida craft brewing, Cigar City is now a household name even outside the state, partly due to a 2016 merger with Fireman Capital Partners that greatly expanded its distribution.

Before that, Cigar City was already very known for an infamous imperial stout, as well as its flagship IPA, Jai Alai.

While Jai Alai and Cigar City’s other core beers are ubiquitous locally, you won’t often find the beer that truly put the brewery on the map: Hunahpu’s imperial stout, a variant of Marshal Zhukov’s imperial stout, flavored with cacao nibs, cinnamon, vanilla beans and ancho and pasilla peppers. The result is a heavily layered beer reminiscent of Mexican chocolate mole.

While Hunahpu’s makes a surprise appearance on tap at local beer bars throughout the year, the best way to try it is to attend Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day festival, one of the area’s best beer festivals, held annually in March at the end of Tampa Bay Beer Week. If you can score tickets, you’ll have access to plenty of Hunahpu’s on draft — and many flavored and barrel-aged spinoffs — as well as an option to buy some bottles to take home.

It’s always a good idea to see what’s happening at the brewery’s tasting room. Pilot batches and special releases hit the taps regularly, showcasing Cigar City’s increasingly wide repertoire, ranging from the Grove line of fruited sour ales to an incredible variant of Jai Alai aged in white oak barrels, White Oak Jai Alai.

Spend an afternoon at either brewery and you’ll probably get an idea of what the fuss is all about. At the very least, you’ll appreciate the fortune of having right in your back yard what thousands of Ratebeer users have collectively decided are two of the best breweries in the world.

Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.

Comments
Bar review: Sip and smoke at Blue Torch

Bar review: Sip and smoke at Blue Torch

Well, the bad news is that Blue Torch Cigars & Winery is not actually a winery. That combination seemed too ambitious to fly under my radar, as Blue Torch had since its opening this year, and that ended up being true.While it’s a curious name for wha...
Published: 07/19/18
Local craft beer of the week: Good For Life gluten-reduced Kölsch, Pair O’ Dice Brewing

Local craft beer of the week: Good For Life gluten-reduced Kölsch, Pair O’ Dice Brewing

For many sufferers of celiac disease, going out for a pint typically means ordering a cider. But brewers have worked hard to provide a reasonable analog for gluten-free drinkers, offering a range of brews produced from grains like sorghum and rice.Mo...
Published: 07/19/18
Nitally’s set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Nitally’s set to reopen at a new, more intimate, South Pasadena location

Folks who have missed testing their taste buds with a St. Petersburg eatery’s famous inferno soup will get a chance to do so once again.Nitally’s ThaiMex Cuisine, which closed its downtown St. Petersburg location in May, will open soon in a smaller l...
Published: 07/18/18
Tampa Bay is a perfect place to make your own food tour. Here are our suggestions.

Tampa Bay is a perfect place to make your own food tour. Here are our suggestions.

There are many good reasons to eat at four or five places in one night. A near overwhelming number of new restaurants in the Tampa Bay area can provoke anxiety in a certain kind of diner, the one who wants to try everything but doesn’t have th...
Published: 07/18/18
Food tours offer an informative, and delicious, look at different areas of Tampa Bay

Food tours offer an informative, and delicious, look at different areas of Tampa Bay

There is a running list on my phone of restaurants to try. A romantic evening at St. Petersburg’s Reading Room. The Safety Harbor double date night, so we can finally take our friends to Pizzeria Gregario. Splurging on the chef’s tasting ...
Published: 07/18/18
Where to get a good hot dog in Tampa Bay for National Hot Dog Day

Where to get a good hot dog in Tampa Bay for National Hot Dog Day

Monday, July 23, is National Hot Dog Day. I don’t know precisely why, but I think some major lobbying from the sausage board was involved. It’s baseball season, it’s barbecue season, it’s I-don’t-feel-like-cooking season. Those are plenty of reasons....
Published: 07/18/18
Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Where to eat and drink around Safety Harbor: Gigglewaters bar, Parts of Paris, Sno Beach and more

Not that many years ago, downtown Safety Harbor was a little lean on places to eat. Green Springs Bistro had been an anchor, Whistle Stop and Cello’s Char House, too. But no one would have called it a dining destination. It was too bad: The city of 1...
Published: 07/18/18
Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Eat and drink your way through Tampa Heights with stops at Hall on Franklin, Armature Works and more

Five or six years ago, if you were to stand on the steps of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and look north along the Hillsborough River, there wouldn’t be much to see. Just a couple of old warehouses and some rubble in the area ...
Published: 07/18/18
In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bern’s, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

In South Tampa, create a dinearound with stops at Bern’s, Haven and the Epicurean Hotel

I had a specific vision for my 35th birthday.Relaxation mostly. Bathrobe. Wine. Maybe a massage or a pool. Food, food, food. A handful of close friends. I did some research at beach hotels in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach and found the price range ou...
Published: 07/18/18
Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Bowled over: From acai to poke, the top 10 bowls in Tampa Bay

Why, exactly, are bowls the new plates?The Wall Street Journal declared it so. Tableware companies like Fiesta have reported serious double-digit growth in the sale of bowls — salad bowls, cereal bowls, you name it. Fast-food restaurants have jumped ...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/19/18