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Cigar City comes in 5th at 2015 U.S. Open Beer Championship

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Cigar City Brewing, the godfather of the Bay Area’s well-documented and booming craft beer scene, is garnering evermore international acclaim.

This past weekend, the Tampa microbrewery was recognized as 2015’s fifth best overall brewery at the U.S. Open Beer Championship.

Over 4,000 beers and ciders, comprising 90 different styles of drink, were sent in to judges from Canada, England and the U.S. for a blind taste-test.

The competition, which is open to professional breweries as well as award-winning home-brewers, saw international submissions from Australia, China, Czech Republic, Venezuela, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Finland, Scotland and England.

“It’s a competition we always enter beer into,” said Cigar City Tasting Room GM, Neil Callaghan. “It’s one of the biggest beer competition contests in the world.”

Cigar City’s fifth place nod in the overall category came after winning two golds, a silver and a bronze in the individual medal selections. The criteria for the overall placement was based on the number of beers that placed first and second in the individual competition categories.

Cigar City’s Zhukov’s Imperial Stout took home gold for the second year in a row, outshining Stone Brewing in California and Clown Shoes Brewing in Massachusetts.

Cigar City also took home gold in the strong imperial brown ale group, for a beer they call Bolita. Shanghai Brewery of China and Madtree Brewing of Ohio won silver and gold, respectively, in the same category.

The Cigar City Florida Cracker, a local favorite, took home silver in the Belgian witbier category; and the brewery’s Big Sound took home the bronze in the Scottish ale category.

“We carefully pick out the beers that we send up to the competition,” said Callaghan of the Cigar City beers that competed in this year’s Open. “[We submit] the ones we think are truly representative of our style and our brand.”

When asked what beers they would be submitting next year, the Cigar City Tasting Room GM said it was still up in the air, and added that it could be any number of the hundred-plus styles of beer Cigar City brews each year.

Mr. Callaghan also made sure to praise his fellow Florida breweries which participated in the competition, like Motorworks Brewing, in Bradenton, who nabbed a bronze in the imperial IPA category for a beer named Two Stroke.

Barry Elwonger, marketing director at Motorworks, Bradenton’s only full-production craft microbrewery, reiterated a similar friendly sentiment:

“We’re more like brothers in arms, rather than competition,” Elwonger said of his company’s relationship with fellow microbreweries, like Cigar City. “With us getting medals, and Cigar City getting medals, it’s really a nice thing […] It makes everyone want to do better.”

And doing better is definitely something which comes with winning awards.

“One of our bestselling beers, our V-Twin lager, is the beer that medaled at Great American Beer Fest last year,” said Elwonger. “After we picked up the medal, [sales] just went nuts. Now we make it year ’round. It’s one of our best sellers on draft as well.”

Cigar City, established in 2008, and since has become a local craft beer sensation, was a little more coy about how their medal success translates into cold-hard-cash.

“We’re in a nice spot right now,” said Callaghan. “The beer that we make always sells, regardless of whether or not it wins competitions […] So it’s tough to gauge whether someone is buying the beer based on the medal, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”

For the full list of winners, visit

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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