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Cigar City plans new brewery, but may not build it in Florida

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Cigar City founder Joey Redner. (AP archive)

Cigar City founder Joey Redner. (AP archive)

Tampa's Cigar City Brewing is not only one of the hottest breweries in the state, it's also one of the hottest in the nation. Seven of its beers are ranked in the Top 250 in the world by the users of Beeradvocate.com, and three of its beers made it into Ratebeer.com's user-generated list of the Top 50 beers in the world. I am particularly fond of their flagship IPA, Jai Alai, a juicy and bitter hop bomb.

At the Brewbound Session in San Diego, Cigar City founder Joey Redner said he wants to build an additional brewery to keep up with the demand for his beers.

Redner and crew came to Sarasota's newest craft brewery, JDub's, last week to brew a collaboration beer.

Redner tells Brewbound he thinks Cigar City (which is capable of brewing about 50,000 barrels of beer a year at its current brewery) could sell from 150,000 to 175,000 barrels a year in Florida within a few years:

"'We came to the realization last week that adding another 50,000 – 60,000 barrels per year in our current facility wasn’t going to work,' he said."

So Cigar City is planning on building a new facility that could cost up to $8 million, Redner said, but Brewbound's Chris Furnari writes that Redner is worried by current political moves in the Florida Legislature:

"But part of a bill currently being considered in the Florida House of Representatives would limit the number of manufacturer-owned vendor licenses (a permit to function much like a retailer and sell beer on site) to two. According to Redner, that could run counter to Cigar City’s business model, as the company derives a significant portion of its revenue from brewery sales. According to Redner, the changes would restrict his ability to realize that revenue at a new facility."

The story continues:

"Redner said he considers the existing vendor license laws — which allows him to sell all packaged products and pints — to be an important piece of the Cigar City business model.

'The carve out that currently exists allows us to act as a retailer and a producer,' said Redner. 'It has been around for longer than I have been alive. Now that people are using it grow their businesses is when it needs to be changed?'

The ability for Cigar City to sell beer at its own taproom is critical because about 10 percent of the company’s annual production is currently sold directly to consumers, Redner said. But because he’s unsure if the company will be allowed to sell beer at a third location in the way that he would like, it has forced him to place the expansion project into a holding pattern.

'It’s hard to go making plans, moving dirt around and building a brewery when you aren’t sure that the business model that you have based your entire plan on is not going to exist in six months,' said Redner.

Here's what I think is an especially important point: Redner told Brewbound that he may build the new brewery outside of Florida:

"'At the end of the day, moving out of state is not the greatest option but it is something I have to consider.'"

Read the full story at Brewbound.com.

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Alan Shaw

Alan Shaw has been a fan of craft beer for more than a decade. He is partial to hops and has been an editor at the Herald-Tribune since 1997. He can be reached at (941) 361-4914, by email or mail at 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. Follow him at @alancshaw on Twitter and on Facebook.
Last modified: March 26, 2014
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