As Cask Ale Week begins in England (or so I am told), the celebration began early in Tampa Bay. A charitable event by Whole Foods Market was brought into the realm of craft beer at Cigar City Brewing on Saturday, offering a selection of cask ales along with several other kegs, and food provided by the health food store.
The charity at hand was the Whole Planet Foundation, an organization created “to create economic partnerships with the poor in those developing-world communities that supply our stores with product. Through innovative assistance for entrepreneurship – including direct microcredit loans and tangible support for other community partnership projects – we seek to unleash the energy and creativity of every human being we work with in order to create wealth and prosperity in emerging economies.”
Definitely a worthy cause.
And Cigar City provided the worthy beer. No less than nine beers available on cask, and another six in kegs; the only question was what to have first. There was one disappointment, and that was that the highly anticipated cask of Bell’s Hop Slam did not make it. And I can assure you, the delivery truck did NOT break down in front of my house and the cask was NOT brought inside for “safekeeping”. Nothing of the sort.
Beers on Cask:
- Cigar City Cuban Espresso Maduro Brown Ale
- Tampa Bay Brewing Company Old Elephant Foot IPA
- Dunedin Brewing Red Oak Ale
- Swamp Head Brewery Dark Char Oak Aged 10.10.10 Douple IPA
- Winter Coat Double Hop Imperial IPA
- He’Brew Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitter Sweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A
- BrewDog Punk IPA
- Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Strong Ale
- Shipyard Pugsley’s Signature XXXX IPA
Available in kegs:
- Peg’s Cantina G.O.O.D. Dancing Cody IPA
- Sierra Nevada Brown Saison
- Brooklyn Brewery Brew Master Reserve Cookie Jar Porter
- Abita Brewing Company Select Imperial Stout
- Southern Tier Iniquity Black Ale
- Blue Point RastafaRye Ale
Of course, in addition to these fine offerings, Whole Foods provided a spread of excellent food, there were raffles for prizes, and live music from Florida talent World Wide Zoo. But as I have said in the past, while the beer is the star of the event, what makes these occasions special is the quality of people in attendance. Brewers and bloggers, bar owners and distributors alike, and of course just plain old beer lovers. Opinions were exchanged, suggestions made, and new friendships formed. The close quarters of the brewery and tasting room did nothing to squash the spirits of beers lovers from all over.
The beer was fantastic, and the “fellowship” was excellent, but I was in for not one, but two surprises on Saturday. While talking to a friend of mine about the beers we were drinking, I was approached by Joey Redner, owner of Cigar City. He was carrying two brown bottles, nearly empty, with hand-marked caps on them.
“I want you to try these,” he said, smiling. “I just found these, and they are the last of their kind. They were from some of our test batches two years ago…”
Needless to say, I was shocked and honored, and left somewhat speechless. And then dove right into them. The first was a “Sugar Brown” ale. It was very sweet to the nose, like brown sugar (go figure) and tasted of spices like coriander, clove, and cardamom. Delicious, and had clearly aged well. The other was a funky, Saison-like beer that had apparently been brewed with Muscadine scuppernong grapes. I believe this was one of the early predecessors of the Guava Grove, but have not been able to confirm that with Joey.
Then, Wayne Wambles, head brewer of Cigar City, took me back among the tanks to show me some new things there were doing. On one tank, I saw “gruit” and “twigged and berried” and Wayne seemed giddy about his “no hops” creation. Nearby was the Jai Alai, fermenting strongly after some earlier issues with the yeast. It was very cool to get to be among the production and get an inside look into their process. I, for one, am hoping for a seasonal from Cigar City called “Twigs and Berries”.
For pictures of the event, click here.
For more about the Whole Planet Foundation, click here.
For more about cask ale, click here.
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