Cigar City – Florida Cracker
Cigar City Brewing – Tampa, FL
One of the first “craft” beers I remember drinking regularly, beyond Boulevard Wheat and Shiner Bock, was one that many of us got started on, and still may be enjoying: Blue Moon. Despite the fact that this is a MillerCoors product, that beer was absolutely astounding compared to most beers on the market at the time. And that orange slice? I mean, shazam.
Now here’s the rub: I can’t advocate anyone drinking Blue Moon anymore, not just because it’s a MillerCoors product (many beers that I love now fall under the ownership of MillerCoors and AB-Inbev), but because it is truly an inferior representation of a style that I have come to adore. So if you like Blue Moon, you’re going to love…
The sixth entry in the 25 Beers of Christmas is Cigar City Brewing’s Florida Cracker, a witbier out of lovely Tampa, Florida. Like many witbiers, it pours straw to golden in color and a bit cloudy from the use of wheat (the "wit" in witbier) in the brewing process. The signature aroma and flavor of witbier comes from the traditional addition of orange peel (remember that orange slice on the Blue Moon glass?) and coriander, known to Americans usually as cilantro, except the seeds are in play instead of the leaves. As such, this is fairly full-bodied wheat beer with citrus notes and an herbal bite, all very flavorful and refreshing. Florida Cracker is lighter on all of the elements than some witbiers I’ve tried, making for an even more pleasant, somewhat lighter version of the classic style.
Witbiers are my absolute favorite beer to pair with sushi, and other delicate or simply prepared seafood, like boiled shrimp, grilled lobster and crab, or seared scallops. It can also be a great starter beer with a lighter brunch, taking the place of your standard mimosa. It also goes great with a beach chair and your toes in the sand.
Florida Cracker can be poured into just about any glass and hold up; I’ve even enjoyed it from a standard pint glass. However, I recommend the tulip glass to show off the color and haze and keep some of the aromas trapped so you get that orange peel and spicy whiff on each sip. As far as I know, Florida Cracker is only available in cans, and should be found anywhere Cigar City beers are available (which is fairly limited, mostly to Florida right now.)
Cigar City is a very well regarded brewery, and makes a slew of excellent beers that are worth trying. The Jai Alai IPA, and especially its oak-aged version, are very popular, and I’m also a big fan of the Maduro Brown Ale, Cubano-Style Espresso Brown ale, Invasion Pale Ale, and Hotter than Helles Lager. Some of their more limited brews, such as the Jose Marti American Porter and Cucumber Saison, have also been standouts in my view. They are perhaps most well-known for their Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, for which they hold an annual one-day release party that has grown exponentially in recent years.
JAB – 12/7/15