For our second foray into our new Brewer’s Spotlight feature, we sat down with Tim Ogden of Tampa’s Cigar City Brew Pub. Tim was kind enough to take a moment out of his busy schedule to talk some shop about the beer industry, the perks of working for such an esteemed young company, and our latest reviewed beer “Gourds of Thunder”. So have a look-see below and check out some photos from our visit (and it’s extremely cool beer themed décor featuring elements inspired or directly from a number of Cigar City brews).
First off, thank you and the rest of the folks at Cigar City for being a big part of Florida’s craft beer renaissance. The reputation for quality, experimentation, and interesting treatments definitely comes with the branding. How closely related is the pub to the brewery and how did it come to be?
We are sibling companies with many things in common such as core values, and at the same time independent of each other with our own ideas, visions, and personalities. There is a mutual respect and affinity, but at the end of the day we operate individually. It came to be out of our love for all things artisanal. We love to enjoy well-made meals as much as well-made beer. We wanted a place where we could highlight that relationship of food and beverage. A place where we could prepare our own puree in house to put into the beer, where we could take wort or finished beer and put it into a dish. And finally a place where we could place our beer with just the right dish to create something more than line items, an overall experience. Chef Nicolay loves beer, I love food, and we’re pumped to put our creations next to each other on the table.
How did you get your start in brewing and what are some of the highlights of getting paid to do it for a living?
I started out as a home brewer in the late 90’s and passion took hold. I learned from local brewers and books. The local brewers were huge in my path to learning the craft. They were never too busy. Not at the festivals or at their bars. They always took the time to hear my question and point me to the right book or procedure to make my beer better and more consistent. The sense of community has grown into more of a family feel. These are my brothers and sisters. Being able to help promote my family and friends is the highlight. Through events, collaborations, any way I can. This industry has been great to me from before I was in it, just being here is dope.
Given the popularity of CCB’s Good Gourd, you had some pretty big shoes to fill in pumpkin ale territory. What was your approach with Gourds of Thunder?
With Gourds of Thunder, I felt like there are a lot of solid pumpkin beers that take the pie approach. Good Gourd is definitely one of my favorites. If somebody wants that beer I am glad to point them in that direction. With Gourds of Thunder, I wanted to make something that would complement the pie rather than be the pie. Something that would pair as well with pie and other desserts as it does with entrees. I also wanted it to be something that would be welcome before Oktoberfest as a sessionable (6.3% ABV) ale, welcome during Halloween when gourd season is peak, and through the fall and winter holidays. Personally, I can’t wait to pour a bottle and enjoy it with turkey dressing and cranberry sauce.
Cigar City beer has a reputation for making a lot of nods to Florida lore. Is there a process by which you come up with most of your beer concepts?
We are proud to represent home for sure. Whenever it feels right we incorporate local culture in beer concepts and names. As far as a process, not so much. If it feels like I’m reaching, I take a step back. Usually I come back with some dark humored witty or culturally valid idea. I guess if there were a process it could be summarized as fun.
What are some of your favorite beer styles? Any craft trends right now that you love or hate? Top beers our readers just have to try?
I love stouts, porters, browns, IPA, red IPA, Black IPA, White IPA…ummmm I’ll stop. I just love beer. I love the trend of just making beer and figuring out what it is later. Styles are a great means of communication, but its fun to just make beer. I really dig the MOA breakfast, Blue Point White IPA, St Somewhere Cynthiana, Cigar City Brewing Jose Marti, Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsener, Avery Mharaja. That’s a good short list.
In that same vein, toot your own horn a bit. What is your favorite brew that you’ve made?
Probably Moat Water. I mentioned earlier how rad collaborations are, this one was super fun. Brewing a beer for the Skatepark of Tampa’s 20th anniversary took me back to my childhood, and I met some fantastic people. That’s what it’s all about.
How closely do you work with the kitchen when creating brews? Do you enter with a pairing in mind on the menu?
Chef and I have conversations here and there. Sometimes (like the Gourds of Thunder) I have pairing ideas in mind, and other times it’s after the fact.
There is a big focus on local when it comes to the menu. What are some of the pros and cons you guys have encountered with this. How does it incorporate into your brewing?
The pros are that it just fits our core values. Buying local products supports the local economy. We are all about supporting local small business. As far as the cons, I would say supply. There is only so much local product. Seasons come and go for different products. As far as brewing, there are no local hop farmers or the like, so I do what I can when I can, be it Dade City Kumquat in the Carrollwood Cougar or Dade City Muscadine grapes in the Alexander and the Grapes upcoming band/beer collab.
Tell us a bit about the hand crafted sodas.
We wanted to have some offerings for the little ones to enjoy. Newfangled Root Cream is a hybrid Old Fashioned Root Beer / Cream Soda. The appearance is cream soda, the nose is root beer, it starts out root beer and finishes cream soda in the flavor.
Do you foresee other locations of the brew pub opening in the future?
I have learned to never say never. I would not be surprised either way.
Any good advice for home brewers or other craft beer enthusiasts?
Drink fresh, Drink local, and Drink outside the box. Keep an open mind.
What is the best part about working for Cigar City?
We have a lot of fun. This company is run by really good people and we have a LOT of fun.