Saturday, May 26, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Cigar City Brewing collaborating on Hootie and the Blowfish beer

Congratulations, 1995. You're about to get that Hootie and the Blowfish-themed beer you've been pining for.

Darius Rucker and his roots-rockin' brethren are about to get their own craft brew, thanks largely to a couple of Tampa Bay's hoppiest heavy hitters, Cigar City Brewing and Rock Brothers Brewing. The companies are teaming up with South Carolina's Palmetto Brewing to create Hootie's Homegrown Ale, made with Carolina Gold rice and hints of lemongrass.

The beer will make its debut at the band's annual Homegrown Festival, Aug. 8-9 in Charleston, S.C. Beyond that, its availability is up in the air. But given the involvement of Cigar City and Rock Brothers, it seems inevitable.

"I'm going to be putting the Hootie beer in Florida at some point," promised Kevin Lilly, co-owner of Rock Brothers Brewing.

This isn't the first band-beer partnership for Rock Brothers, whose two previous projects have enjoyed long lives on Tampa Bay tap lists and store shelves. High Road Ale, an orange-tinged American pale ale inspired by Bradenton band Have Gun, Will Travel was released in April 2013. Nare Sugar Brown, a brown ale created in conjunction with Jacksonville's J.J. Grey and Mofro, was released in November.

Earlier this month, Rock Brothers and Cigar City announced a partnership with Kyle Hollingsworth, the keyboardist for jam-banders the String Cheese Incident. To mark the August release of his solo album Speed of Life, Hollingsworth, a home brewer himself, is teaming up with three craft breweries around the country to develop his own unique brews. Collaborations with California's Stone Brewing Co. and Colorado's Boulder Beer Co. are already out; a Cigar City sessionable IPA called Happening Now will be released Aug. 12.

But Hootie's in a whole 'nother league.

One of the biggest-selling groups of the '90s, the group has drifted from the spotlight as singer Rucker found a successful second career in country music. But they still come together for occasional charity concerts, their annual Homegrown Festival in South Carolina, and for each other. Last year, Rucker popped into St. Petersburg for a surprise set at the Blowfish Bar and Grill, which is co-owned by Blowfish bassist Dean Felber.

One of Rock Brothers' agents has a connection to the band that stretches back to their college days, and they've been discussing the idea of a Hootie-themed beer for a year. Turns out the Blowfish were already thinking about a way to do a similar project. "It just ended up being this serendipitous call we made to Hootie's manager," Lilly said.

"We always wanted to approach Hootie, but if you look at our current lineup, you look at our current lineup, Have Gun, Will Travel is local, JJ Grey and Mofro is a national act, but Hootie is …" He pauses. "It's Hootie and the Blowfish. They're iconic. I didn't feel like we would be in a position to launch with someone like Hootie the first year of our business."

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