TAMPA — Jezebelle Delgado looked relaxed and comfortable at her table in the Red Frog Pub aboard the Carnival Legend cruise ship Sunday afternoon.
Delgado smiled as she sipped from a multi-colored aluminum can with the image of an eye patch-wearing pirate.
“It’s really good,” Delgado said of Invasion Pale Ale, one of two beers by Cigar City Brewing the cruise line began offering Sunday.
“I’m used to having hoppy beer,” said Delgado, of Tampa. “This is more citrus-y compared to a traditional pale ale.”
Across the table, Nicole Saffold of Spring Hill, enjoyed Cigar City’s other Carnival offering, Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale.
“It’s very smooth,” Saffold said.
Delgado and Saffold were among the party-goers at a reception celebrating the recently-inked partnership between Carnival and Cigar City Brewing. The beer will now be offered on Carnival’s 13 Florida-based ships, which sail to the Caribbean, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Joe Burns, Cigar City Brewing’s national sales manager, said the partnership should help the Tampa business achieve its goal of becoming “Florida’s brewery.”
“We’ll be on all of the (Carnival cruise ships) that depart from Florida, starting today,” Burns said. “One of our goals has been to partner with the great Florida institutions, and we’ve done that with Disney, Publix, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and now Carnival.”
Edward Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations, was a fan of Cigar City Brewing products well before the partnership was finalized.
“I started at Carnival two and a half years ago, and I wanted to elevate our beer program,” Allen said. “The craft beer scene has exploded in the last few years. We’re a proud Florida company and what better way to show that off” than to offer a Florida beer?
“We have the ability to expose Cigar City beer to people from all over the South and around the country.”
According to information from the Brewers Association, an organization that promotes craft beers, the overall beer market in 2013 represented $100 billion, $14.3 billion of which was sales of craft beer.
Cigar City Brewing is one of 66 small breweries in Florida. Together they produced more than 4 million gallons of beer last year, the association said.
As Delgado and Saffold could attest, Cigar City Brewing products “have a great complexity,” Allen said.
“It’s made with love and hand-crafted, and all of that comes through” in the flavor, he said.
Cigar City and Carnival officials met during the Cruise Shipping Miami trade show in March, said Greg Lovelace, marketing director of Port Tampa Bay.
“We talked to Cigar City Brewing and had them at our booth to help them ‘brand’ Tampa,” Lovelace said. “We were just trying to help them get some exposure and it progressed into what we have here today. We’re happy to be a part of it.”