Have you taken inspiration from Latin culture?
We make a guava saison. The Cubans make a guava tart, so we decided on a saison. And we do a brown ale that has Ivory Coast cacao nibs in it, a small amount of Madagascar vanilla bean and Cuban espresso roast. The Cubans were in poverty when they arrived in Florida. Part of the history of Cuban espresso is the fact that they make really concentrated coffee. They usually use the lower grade bean, and they’ll roast the heck out of it. Then they use it to make café con leche, which is espresso mixed with a little heavy cream that has been steamed. The smaller beans have a higher concentration of caffeine, so for very little money they could get this hefty dose of caffeine and a full-flavored espresso. So that’s what we’re trying to reflect as well. It’s not only culinary background; it’s history as well.
Cigar City makes deliberate connections with brewing history in Florida.
Not just brewing. We’ve referenced gambling rings, prominent characters from the Tampa area, Native American tribes—whenever we can, we try to grasp onto something from our history.
What are you working on right now?
We’re doing a French oak-aged American porter that will be going to a Michael Jackson’s Rare Beer Club.
We’ve got the first beer in the three beer series for the Dos Costas Oeste project with The Bruery in Placentia. It’s high gravity Belgian ale that’s golden in color, with secondary on sweet orange peel, coriander and threshold levels of ginger, and aged on Spanish cedar. Then the second and third beers in that series will be the same base beer but one aged on grapefruit wood and one aged on lemon wood. Once we tie up the three threads that will be the end of that project. The idea is to let consumers taste the same beer with three different woods, and see what each wood does.
The whole project started in 2009 when we did our first collaboration with The Bruery, our first collaboration anywhere with anyone. Our first beer was Marrón Acidifié, which is a high gravity oud bruin that was aged in barrels for a really long time. It was brewed in 2009, and it wasn’t released until April of this year.
We’ve also got a beer we’re going to call Big Dummy. One of our senior brew staff members, every time he makes a mistake—I don’t know if you’ve seen Sanford and Son—but I tell him “You big dummy,” like Fred Sanford would tell Lamont. It’s basically a Belgo-American amber ale with Citra and Simcoe, fermented with 3711 saison yeast. It has three different types of Munich malt, a ton of melanoidin malt and pilsner malt as base.
Then we have another project coming up after that—it’s called Black Whole. It’s a tribute to an indie band out of Alabama; the front man is a guy I used to play with. We’re trying to tie indie music and craft beer, because we feel they share the same amounts of their respective markets and they challenge the consumer. That beer will be a hybrid between an English porter and a Belgian double. We’re going to ferment that with saison yeast as well.