While Florida’s craft breweries seem to be forever growing in number, counting the ranks of Florida’s mead producers and Florida’s cider makers would not event require the use of one’s toes. While few are looking to join the ranks of Florida’s honey wine and apple beverage makers, the crew of Cigar City Brewing has added another business to the family: Cigar City Cider and Mead.
Cigar City Cider and Mead has already been in production for a while- the cider was previously contracted out, but with the opening of the new facility and tasting room in Ybor City, the company has now taken direct control over production and the experimentation that Cigar City is known for. Every beverage from the fledgling company is made in Ybor City with employees working every day to keep up with demand, one 200-gallon batch at a time.
The head of creativity at the cidery and meadery is Jared Gilbert, a winemaker whose vision for Cigar City Cider and Mead is one of both balance and experimentation. The goal with this new company and new home is to “bring enlightenment to the market, especially when it comes to meads.” Gilbert says that he believe balance is the key to both beverages and that the ideal is “not too sweet” and “not too dry” and he wants to bring these drinks to the forefront of the industry. Cigar City owner Joey Redner has long valued meads not only as unique drinks, but as the only alcoholic beverages that can be produced solely with native Floridian ingredients. Gilbert agrees with this vision and he wants to make meads with indigenous avocado honey and mangrove honey as well as expanding into a barrel program for barrel aging meads and ciders.
As of its opening, the new Cigar City Cider and Mead tasting room and production house has showcased some of Gilbert’s creations and pop culture knowledge with a spectrum of ciders like “There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand” banana cider, a strawberry banana cider, a dry-hopped mango cider, and a black currant cider along with a vanilla mead, a blackberry sourwood mead, and a strawberry shortcake demi-sec.
Cigar City Cider and Mead lives in a building that has already made history as one of Tampa Bay’s first brewpubs- 1812 North 15th Street in Ybor City first housed the Tampa Bay Brewing Company in its youth.
Since this cider and mead facility actually exists within the boundaries of Ybor City and in keeping with the Cigar City sense of humor, rumor has it that Redner and crew will erect a sister sign to the one that stands in front of the brewery reading “In Ybor Since 2014” (the sign in front of the brewery is a testament to the confusion many folks exhibit when they mistakenly believe that the Cigar City Brewing is housed in Ybor City, it reads “Not in Ybor Since 2009”).