When I first read of the agreement by Carnival Cruise Lines to carry a couple of Cigar City Brewing’s beers, I was ecstatic.
Not because I’m a big cruiser (I’m not, though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the few I’ve experienced, except for the lack of quality beer) or because I’m a huge supporter of Tampa’s Cigar City and Florida breweries (I am), but because it indicates that the American craft beer revolution is continuing its foray into venues dominated by AB InBev, SABMillerCoors, Diageo and other multinational conglomerates.
Look at airlines. JetBlue now carries Sam Adams on its flights, Southwest offers New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire, and some Delta flights serve Sweetwater 420. It’s not unusual to find local craft beer taps amongst the macrobrews in hotel lounges. Casual family-dining chains are dipping their toes into locally brewed craft beer – it’s getting more difficult to find any tap lineup in the Tampa Bay area that doesn’t have at least Jai-Alai IPA from Cigar City. Up in my neck of the woods, the Crystal River Applebee’s started serving some of the beers from the local Copp Brewery, and apparently they can’t keep enough in stock because it’s selling so well.
Other cruise lines offer “craft beer” on some of their sailings. For example, the recently opened Gastrobar on the Celebrity Equinox boasts “more than 40 handcrafted brews,” but a look at the beer list shows only about a quarter of them are true American crafts under the Brewers Association definition. Carnival has offered its house beer, Thirsty Frog Red Ale, in its ships’ Red Frog Pubs but sources show that it is brewed by AB-InBev.
Now that Carnival is serving Cigar City’s Invasion Pale Ale and Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale in the pubs on its Florida-based ships, I anticipated that the trend will snowball and we’ll see a lot more of these types of partnerships.
Getting the Cigar City beers in front of and in the mouths of millions of passengers from across the country and around the world should help spread the word that there is some damn fine beer being made in the Sunshine State. And at $4.95 per can – a reasonable price on a cruise ship – sales should be good.
Here’s the official press release from Carnival Cruise Lines.
MIAMI (July 14, 2014) — Capitalizing on the growing popularity of craft beer in the U.S., Carnival Cruise Lines has entered into an exclusive agreement to offer Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing’s craft beers on all of its Florida-based ships.
Cigar City’s Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale and Invasion Pale Ale will be available on 13 Carnival ships sailing from five Florida ports beginning this week. Combined, those ships carry more than two million guests each year.
The agreement — the first partnership of this magnitude between a craft brewery and a major cruise line — was announced Sunday, July 13, at an event aboard Carnival Legend at the Port of Tampa.
“Carnival continues to seek high-quality brands to enhance our guests’ experience, and Cigar City Brewing has been rated among the top craft breweries in the world,” said Eddie Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations. “Cigar City Brewing craft beers are a fantastic addition to our already extensive beverage menus and will provide our guests a chance to enjoy two delicious and refreshing beers that aren’t available on any other cruise line.”
Allen noted that Carnival also offers its own private label draught beer, ThirstyFrog Red, which is available throughout the fleet.
“Cigar City Brewing could not be happier than to partner with another great Florida institution, that being Carnival Cruise Lines. Everyone at Cigar City Brewing is thrilled to start this wonderful partnership,” said Joe Burns, national sales manager for Cigar City Brewing
Carnival has 13 Florida-based ships sailing three- to eight-day itineraries to the Caribbean, Mexico and The Bahamas, including Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Glory, Carnival Victory and Carnival Splendor from Miami; Carnival Sensation, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral; Carnival Freedom from Fort Lauderdale; Carnival Paradise and Carnival Legend from Tampa, and Carnival Fascination from Jacksonville.
Cigar City’s Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale is named for the colonial-era “Cracker” cowboys of Florida. Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale is brewed with unmalted wheat, orange peel and coriander, and ends with a spicy, dry finish. The beer pours cloudy straw in color and has moderate notes of orange peel, coriander and hints of vanilla.
Gold in color, Invasion Pale Ale is Cigar City’s version of a “session” beer (a beer with a relatively low alcohol content) in a hoppy ale that celebrates Tampa’s alleged history of being a pirate hideout. The tropical aroma offers suggestions of peach, mango, lime and papaya. Invasion has a light caramel malt character laced with a slight “breadiness” and the finish offers a bounty of tropical and citrus hop flavor and bitterness.
Unlike most U.S. craft breweries, Cigar City Brewing packages most of its beverages in aluminum cans. Aluminum cans are the most widely recycled containers in the United States, and aluminum may be reused repeatedly without loss of strength or quality. From a beer drinker’s perspective, cans have zero light penetration to better preserve the integrity of the brew, and they chill faster, are easier to store and have a longer shelf life than bottles. Cans also are shatterproof and therefore are allowed where bottles are not — such as poolside. Producing new cans from recycled aluminum reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent.
Florida Craft Brewing Trends
Over the past decade, the number of craft and microbreweries has grown dramatically across the United States and consumer demand for craft brews continues to increase. In 2013 in Florida, the state’s 66 small breweries produced 130,000 barrels (4.03 million gallons) of craft-brewed beer for an economic impact of $875.8 million, ranking the state 12th in the nation.
Nationwide, in 2013 the overall beer market represented total sales of $100 billion, of which $14.3 billion was craft beers. That represented a 20 percent increase in craft beer sales and an 18 percent increase in production volume over 2012, according to the Brewers Association.