TAMPA — Cigar City Brewing — maker of the Cubano-style Espresso Brown Ale and Guava Grove Farmhouse Ale — is expanding into the food business.
The Tampa-based beer company plans to open the Cigar City Brewpub in late February in a former T.G.I. Friday's restaurant in Hillsborough's Northdale.
"I've always wanted to do food," Cigar City owner Joey Redner said. "A lot of our beer is very culinary inspired. We're big believers in food and beer pairings."
Redner has been pondering a restaurant since the brewery opened in 2008 on Spruce Street. He had considered sites in downtown Tampa and Seminole Heights, where he lives, but jumped at the chance to sign a long-term lease at the T.G.I. Friday's site, 15491 N Dale Mabry Highway. The space had been vacant since late last year.
"We looked around but couldn't find a place that fit everything we needed," he said. "This worked out well. All the equipment is there. It was like we couldn't walk away from it."
Redner is talking with local chefs to design the menu, which will focus on Tampa-style Cuban food. Beer will be brewed on site a few times a week. Some selections will be exclusive to the restaurant.
The decor will have a feel of the production brewery, with repurposed fixtures and furniture such as tables made with barrel stays. It will be open daily, but hours have not been set. Cigar City president Toni Derby and Redner's family members will run it.
News of the restaurant comes during a heady year for the brewery. Construction is under way to triple the size of its tasting room and add up to 24 taps. The original bar area will be reserved for to-go growlers and other purchases. The expansion is expected to be finished in November.
Also in the works are plans to launch a Cigar City cider and mead. The drinks are close to going into production and will likely be sold by the bottles in specialty liquor and grocery stores.
This spring, Cigar City opened a location in the Tampa International Airport, making it the first airport in the country to sell beer brewed on site.
Cigar City set up a Facebook page for the Brewpub on Wednesday, and by Thursday afternoon, it had more than 1,000 likes.