What makes for a great beer origin story? In the case of Cigar City Brewing's Invasion Tropical Pale Ale, you have a beer that was made to coincide with the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a sprawling event held in the brewery’s hometown of Tampa and honors a possibly fictional pirate. Still, terrific beers have emerged from stranger things. Who doesn’t like the idea of an ale that can conjure up memories of sea shanties, parrot sidekicks and chests full of gold?
Appearance and Aroma
On the label, you’ll find a handwritten treasure map, drawings of masted ships with cannons at the ready and an outstretched hand with some serious tattoos. In other words, it’s more pirate-laden than a cast reunion for Black Sails being double-booked in the same space as a cast reunion for Crossbones. Thankfully, the nautical metaphor doesn’t extend to the smell of this beer. Instead, the odor is floral and hoppy, with traces of lilac, pineapples and something just about to over-ripen present in the mix. It’s not overly harsh; instead, there’s a sense of balance and restraint.
For all of the force and bluster suggested by its name, Invasion ends up being much more cordial.”
Frequently, beers evoking the tropics—whether it’s Wayne Coyne’s collaboration with Dogfish Head or Rogue’s Paradise Pucker—double down on the presence of fruit in the overall flavor profile. Invasion is a bit more subtle. While there are certainly the bitter and hoppy tastes and texture one might expect from a pale ale, it takes a little more concentration to discern the notes of mango that can be found in the background. It’s not to say that they’re not present, they’re just not overpowering. That makes for a rewarding drinking experience.
For all of the force and bluster suggested by its name, Invasion ends up being much more cordial, for the better. Choosing subtlety, over overwhelm the beer with fruit flavors, is a welcome choice. In the end, Cigar City has made a solid beer for the warmer months. It may not inspire you to a life of piracy on the high seas, but then again, scurvy and swordfights are deeply overrated.