Cigar City Enters Tennessee, Eyes Further Expansion


Florida-based Cigar City Brewing will expand its distribution footprint for the first time in four years when it enters Tennessee next week, the company announced Thursday.

The entry marks the beginning of an ambitious expansion plan for Cigar City that will include forays into North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Colorado and Utah, chief operating officer Justin Clark told Brewbound.

Cigar City, which has dealt with capacity constraints at its primary brewing facility in Tampa for years, had previously been unable to open new markets even as it expanded production with nearby contract outfit Brew Hub.

But last year’s sale to the Fireman Capital-backed Oskar Blues Holding Company — which owns majority stakes in Oskar Blues, Perrin Brewing and the Utah Brewers Cooperative (Wasatch and Squatters brands) — gave Cigar City access to additional brewing capacity via the group’s partner facilities. That extra space enabled the company to consider new market expansions, Clark said.

“We have a lot of capacity in front of us,” Clark said.

Cigar City began brewing its beer at Oskar Blues’ facility in Brevard, North Carolina last week, Clark added.

The extra capacity will also help Cigar City, which produced more than 65,000 barrels of beer in 2016, supply existing markets outside of its Florida home, including Philadelphia, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia and New York.

In Tennessee, Cigar City will partner with Lipman Brothers Distributing to sell cans of Jai Alai IPA, Maduro Brown Ale, Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale, Invasion Pale Ale and Tampa-Style Lager at retail outlets in Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville. Draft offerings will follow, a press release noted.

“We wanted to fill out the southeast for a while,” Clark told Brewbound.

Recent changes to Tennessee’s alcohol laws now permit breweries to sell beers as high-octane as 10.1 percent ABV in grocery and convenience stores (Previous rules required businesses to pay an added liquor tax when selling beer above 5 percent ABV). That change enabled Cigar City to consider an entry, Clark said, noting that the company’s flagship beer, Jai Alai IPA, checks in at 7.5 percent ABV.

Earlier this week, Cigar City announced plans to brew and serve Jai Alai IPA at Michigan’s Perrin Brewing. It’s the first time Cigar City’s beer will be available in the state. Clark said the release is a “one-time plan,” although he didn’t rule out Cigar City distributing its beer in Michigan in the future.

Meanwhile, the Cigar City Brewpub, located at 15491 Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, Florida, closed its doors on January 1. The brewpub, which operated separately from the brewery, had been open since April 2013.

“Farewell and thank you to our Northdale and Carrollwood customers,” an announcement on Facebook read. “We are currently scouting new locations and plan to reappear in 2017.”