Total Tap Takeover

When Mark Tuchman moved to Florida from New York two years ago, he almost immediately came into contact with Joey Redner. Both of them had long been serious members of, and the two met at a beer rating party at Redner's house. Right then, Tuchman realized that Redner's fledgling Cigar City Brewing was something special.

Soon enough, he was sending — admittedly illegally — Cigar City beer up to his award-winning craft beer retail store in New York for his best clients, which helped spur on a beer geek frenzy that saw the brewery expanding into that state long before Redner had planned. Soon, Tuchman sold his New York store and re-entered the craft beer industry in Sarasota with a bar called Mr. Beery's, which quickly joined long-standing giant Cock and Bull as hubs of the growing craft brew geek scene in the area. And he featured plenty of Cigar City products from the very beginning.

When Tuchman started bidding on one of the Cigar City lots in this year's CL Holiday Auction — "Item #066: Brew your own beer at Cigar City Brewing and follow up at home" — he didn't plan on keeping it for himself. "It coincided perfectly with our one-year anniversary and the Cigar City Total Tap Takeover," Tuchman explains.

On January 29, all 25 taps at Mr. Beery's will pour strictly Cigar City products, from the well-known Jai Alai Pale Ale to some of the brewery's more esoteric concoctions. Tuchman has hoarded kegs of seasonal and limited production beers from Cigar City since he opened the bar a year ago, the kinds of beers that few beer geeks have had an opportunity to sample unless they're regulars at the brewery's tasting room.

"I thought, 'What else could I do to make it cool?'" says Tuchman. "What better than a chance to give away an opportunity to brew right in our backyard with one of the best breweries in the world." He plans to raffle off the auction lot in April, after giving free entry tickets with every purchase of a Cigar City product at Mr. Beery's during February and March.

Besides the 17 kegs that Tuchman has hoarded over the past 12 months, Cigar City's brewer Wayne Wambles will bring enough to fill the other eight taps, including Mr. Beery's non-patented Infusinator 1000. That's one of Tuchman's "beernovations" that allows a keg to be directed through a flavoring agent that can alter the beer before it hits the tap. Recently, he accentuated the already incredibly hoppy Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA by running it through fresh Cascade hops. He's leaving the choice of beer and flavor for that tap to Wambles.

There will also be a firkin of cask-conditioned ale, and a selection of difficult-to-find bottles available during the Total Tap Takeover, many long gone from Cigar City's inventory, many that never made it onto retail shelves. "[Joey Redner's] got this giant beer nerd resume," says Tuchman, "and beer nerds are always looking for the next cool thing. That's why Cigar City keeps things interesting." Tuchman then starts ticking off a multitude of special edition beers from Cigar City, many of them slight variations on one of the brewery's fundamental creations, like white oak-aged Jai Alai Pale Ale, or stand-alone creations like the Puppy Dog Porter.

"Forget about the customer who's never tried these beers," says Tuchman. "A lot of them I've never had."

Justin Clark, Cigar City's Florida sales manager, will be coming to Mr. Beery's along with Wambles for the Total Tap Takeover. He says that they've done similar events in New York and around the Bay area, but the Mr. Beery's night "might be the one with the highest number of taps."

He and Wambles have yet to pick the beers, although he hints that Vu Ja De — the brewery's very limited collaboration with Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewery — could be among the offerings. He's a bit too busy to think about it this week, however, as Cigar City embarks on its next expansion.

"We purchased a new brew house and we'll be able to increase our production," Clark explains. "500 barrels year one, 3,500 year two, and hopefully 15,000 year three ... it makes for some long days."

He also notes that the CL auction lot is sort of a preview of Cigar City's potential new pilot program, during which clients (and perhaps the public) can arrange to brew beer at Cigar City's facility and purchase the whole lot as an exclusive product. "That hasn't been done yet, but it's something that will probably happen in the future," he says.

Tuchman's frenetic energy and New York-accented passion shines through whenever he talks, since he rarely talks about anything other than craft beer. "One of the great things about this scene is that it's a community thing," he says. "And this is an amazing way to bring brewer, consumer and retailer together."

Mr. Beery's, 2645 Mall Dr., Sarasota, 941-343-2854, Total Tap Takeover, Sat. Jan. 29, 5 p.m.-Midnight.