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Cigar City's El Catador Club worth the money

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Cigar City ended the first incarnation of its El Catador Club in late February, and I have some solid trade-bait to show for it.

Knowing I’ll probably never get these beers again, I’ve largely been hoarding my bottles, though I’ve had the opportunity to sample Double-Barrel Hunahpu’s (rich, robust, and so smooth it’s hard to believe the ABV). I’ve also opened a bottle each of Don Gavino’s Big Guava (dry, tart, a bit funky, refreshing), Good Gourd Almighty (the cinnamon really pops in this one, and plays very nicely with the spicy-sweet kick from the rum barrel) and Forgotten Island (boozy and sweet, with strong notes of dark fruit).  That leaves Illuminating the Path as the sole offering I've not yet so much as sipped.

The five El Catador Club bottles: Forgotten Island, Good Gourd Almighty, Illuminating the Path, Don Gavino's Big Guava, and Double Barrel Hunahpu's.

The five El Catador Club bottles: Forgotten Island, Good Gourd Almighty, Illuminating the Path, Don Gavino's Big Guava, and Double Barrel Hunahpu's.

So, for the price of membership, I got five rare bottles and a T-shirt. Fair for $120, considering these bottles typically go for $20 to $25 apiece and can often be traded for bottles that fetch an even higher price. But the additional perks make the club a no-brainer, especially for locals, if CCB doesn’t jack up the price significantly for the next iteration.

What were those additional perks, and how did it all play out for me? Well, for starters, there was that 10 percent tasting room discount. I don’t get to Tampa all that often, but you’d better believe that when I did, that was plenty of extra incentive to pop over to CCB and buy some beer. I bought some “Giftmas” presents with that discount, too. On top of that, the opportunity to buy additional bottles of most of the El Catador offerings helped pad my beer cellar while ensuring that CCB got a decent chunk of change from me.

Since I don’t live in Tampa -- and because I work nights -- I did miss out on a few member-exclusive brews in the taproom that I would have loved to have sampled. And the one other special offering they made available online was so limited that it was gone before I could even try to reserve a bottle. (If anyone local has Amplitude and wants a Hunahpu’s, let’s talk).

The brewery also gave members first stab at a few other special offerings and events, including Hunahpu’s Day tickets. Granted, that event was, er, not all it could have been, but other beer writers have beaten that into the ground. And I didn’t have an awful time of things, all told. I got to taste a lot of good stuff, I left with a fairly hilarious sunburn and my three bottles of Hunahpu’s, and I got a refund!

Overall? I probably spent a lot more money on Cigar City from July to March than I would have without the membership. That’s a win for my beer collection and for the brewery, if not for my bank account. The sign-up day itself was a treat. The exclusive brews I’ve tried so far have ranged from solid to phenomenal.

When they announce the next round of sign-ups, especially if the price point is similar, I’ll be ready to get in that line again.

Last modified: April 2, 2014
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