Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing has long been a favorite in the Southeast, with its signature Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown each a saving grace to craft beer fans visiting Gulf Coast beaches or Walt Disney World. While it is new to some of Cigar City’s markets, Tocobaga Red IPA is popular enough at home to have a spot in the brewery’s year-round rotation. The beer is named for the pre-Spanish settlers of Tampa Bay, and marries the rich maltiness of a red ale with Citra hops for an unusual blend of hop and malt flavors. The end result is far more balanced and cohesive than I expected.
The Tocobaga can utilizes silver lettering over a dark red background with subtle patterned art of ancient dwellings, birds, and pyramids. The beer itself pours an attractive garnet color, and there’s a slight haze to it as well as a foam collar that sticks around for a bit.
You catch a bit of lemony citrus from the hops on the initial swirl, but the “red ale” component screams through with a ton of bread, biscuit, and caramel aroma. As the ale warms a bit, the hoppier pine, resin, and floral accents become more apparent. It’s a winning combination that bodes well.
The aroma leads the drinker to guess that they’ll find comforting malty flavors of caramel and biscuit—and you do—but then the IPA qualities reveal themselves in a hoppy finish.”
Normally in the malt vs. hop tug of war, there’s usually a clear winner. That’s not the case with Tocobaga. The aroma leads the drinker to guess that they’ll find comforting malty flavors of caramel and biscuit—and you do—but then the IPA qualities reveal themselves in a hoppy finish. It’s a deft balancing act, but a nice mix of red berry esters, citrus and pine-forward hops, and malty backbone blend together harmoniously.
This is a classic “you’ll like it a lot more than you were expecting to” beer. Cigar City produced a winner here, and in the era of hazy and session IPA mania, it’s nice to have something as unusual as a red IPA deliver such deliciousness.