Tampa was everything I wanted it to be. It was sunny, warm and incredibly eventful. We were a bit delayed getting out of NYC with the snow storm. There’s nothing like waiting for hours on a tarmac, only to have the plane de-iced and taking off a few hours late. We made it though.
It’s where you’re going
Now on to the good stuff, the food, sun, baseball and beer. We arrived in Tampa about 1pm and after checking in at our hotel, it was only natural to head over to Cigar City and have a few beers, scope out the scene for the next day and most importantly, pick up some tokens for the beer lines. It was a fantastic afternoon, we grabbed a few flights of beer, trying just about everything on tap. The obvious favorites were the old standards, Jai Alai and Maduro Brown, as well as the Cubano imperial sweet stout, the Josh Brengle double IPA and the exceptional Dos Costas Oeste, a farmhouse ale aged on grapefruit wood.
From there, it was all about soaking in some sun and making friends. We made friends from the brewery, that hooked us up with some brews. We also made friends with some great folks we spent time with the next day. On the advice of some our new friends, we made our way down to Ybor City to grab dinner at Columbia, the oldest restaurant in Tampa. Really cool, really old school, down to the classic turn of the century architecture, design and staff. It was a treat. We sampled a bunch of tapas style appetizers and got the paella to share for dinner. It was good. We had to roll ourselves out the door.
We strolled around Ybor City for a bit, scoping out all the cool little cigar shops, bars and restaurants. We made stops at two places, Ybor City Wine Bar, a cute spot with a knowledgeable staff, that also had great craft beer in bottles and King Corona, a cigar shop with great beers on tap. Both spots were unexpected but a hell of a treat and a good way to close out the evening. We decided to turn in early to prepare us for the marathon that would be Hunahpu Day and the Yankees game.
Like I know what’s coming
Upon waking up, we grabbed some quick snacks and coffee and started making our way to Cigar City. We met a great guy from Chicago on the ride down. He would share some beers with us later in the day. Upon arriving, we found ourselves on a massive line, that somehow moved pretty quickly. Took about 35 minutes from the time we got online at 8:15 am, until we were in the festival area. They started pouring beers at 9am, but we were sharing with people we met online already. Thank goodness for coffee cups.
If you get to Hunahpu Day early, you know you will spend a good amount of time online and that’s exactly what we did. Basically jumping on the beers lines as soon as we walked in. We sampled a few homebrews and some bottles I had while we waited. Our first spot got us a good amount of beers, two per person. We sampled the fresh Hunahpu, Three Floyds Czech Booty Camp Pils, Intuition Ale Works I-10 IPA and the wholly unexpected, but awesome mead B. Nektar Zombie Killer Cherry Cyser. Oddly, maybe it was the best thing I would try all day. We had lot of other beers from Founders, Three Floyds Zombie Dust and Michiana Power Pale Ale, Bruery Autumn Maple, Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout, Terrapin Moo Hoo and more. All amazing beers.
I follow you, like a stray
We quickly grabbed some food and water and started sobering up so we could head to the Yankee game. Steinbrenner Field is about a 20 minute walk down the highway from Cigar City. So, we made our way over and sadly missed the first two innings and Derek Jeter’s first appearance of the season. No worries. We made it in time to see the highlight of the day, Mariano Rivera’s first spring appearance. This was also the day he announced this would be his last year, with retirement coming at season’s end. The applause while Metallica’s Enter Sandman played was rousing. It was as if it were an October game. The fans truly showed Mo that they were going to miss him. It was beautiful. The Yanks went down to the Braves that day, but seeing Mo was the highlight. The thing I love about Spring Training is the access you get to the players. You are so close to the action, to the players. I was maybe 20 feet away from Mo while he was warming up to go in. That was awesome and maybe the highlight of a day with many.
Listening Pile: Shout Out Louds – W.I.Y.F. (Dust into Diamonds)
Love this band. I have since their debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. They’ve consistently put out great albums, but this one is maybe the best since their debut. This song in particular is just beautiful. Give it a listen, it’s a gem of dreamy, indie pop with Adam Olenius’ Smithesque vocals.