Cage brewing will hold its Grand Opening on February 27, but their soft opening has come and past, and when I visited last week, let’s just say it was still in soft opening stages. But because it wouldn’t be fair to count the chickens before they hatch, this article will focus on Cage’s brews and not their developing aesthetic.
What struck me when I first walked in was the length of their beer list—a TV screen full of options! Upon closer look, though, the menu came up noticeably light on darker styles like porters and stouts, and entirely lacking in lagers. I sampled eight (as a flight, people—otherwise this article wouldn’t be a thing). Flights of four were $7 and pints ranged from $4 to $6 depending mostly on ABV. Here’s what I thought, and a few conclusions about their process as a whole:
- SUNKIST Fruit Beer: How do you make fruit beer? Well, the guys over at Cage have cranked out a couple attempts, and they’re all about mediocre. Sunkist is a fruit beer of the orange variety, and while it’s not overwhelmingly orange-y, it also tastes like watery orange soda. Aptly named.
- SUBVERT Pale Ale: (In case you’re like me and were wondering what “subvert” meant, subvert: to undermine the authority of an established system.) I wouldn’t say this pale ale is subverting anything besides the rules of good beer. Imagine Bud Light with more hops, and you’ll land on something like Subvert. Its appearance was hazy, almost opaque, and tasted like a watery, strongly bitter version of a pale ale. Excessive addition of hops attempts to compensate for relative lack of flavor but presents instead as a tangy, almost astringent beer.
- COFFEE BROWN Brown Ale: This beer emanates coffee aroma even before drinking and tastes like you would expect it to: a brown ale plus coffee. It had a sharp aftertaste, reminiscent of a stout. It ranked around #3 on my list.
- COLD CRUSH Spiced Beer: This beer was one of a few that solve the mystery of the huge beer list: Cold Crush is actually the American Amber Ale (called Grand Central Red) just with apple cider-y spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg added. This one had no head, little aroma of any included spices, and it drank like an unremarkable beer—with spices.
- PINBALL PORTER Robust Porter: One of a limited number of dark beers on the menu, this porter is dry and sharp up front with the typical inky, porter taste coming after. Why pinball, you ask? Currently, Cage’s modest game selection includes two pinball machines! Sadly, they’re not free.
- STATIC American IPA: This beer was my favorite of the ones I sampled, made with entirely citra hops to give an upfront fruity bouquet. It’s a well-rounded beer that is relatively light for an IPA (refreshing in this age of over-hoppage) but with a high enough ABV to one-and-done it (one-and-do it? You get the picture).
- KING CRUSH Double IPA: This double is as heavy as you’d expect from a DIPA, but it’s lightened up by a faint aftertaste of lemon and orange peel. Overall, nothing to write home about.
- MANGO CRUSH Mango DIPA: Yet another instance of repeats on the menu, this DIPA is actually the King Crush, but the batch was divided in two and one had mangoes added during the brewing process. I think I recall the bartender saying they were locally sourced mangoes, so bonus points for that. The mango flavor is mild but just enough. This ranked #2 on my list.
Cage Brewing is a bold attempt to enter the beer scene in St. Pete, but their beers could use some refining. Out of the eight I tried, only one or two would be worthy of seconds. Don’t be fooled by the lengthy beer list: many are the same beer with different ingredients added during final brewing stages. And you’ll be want for a good dark beer. But one awesomely unique thing Cage has going for it is Mother Kombucha on tap! Can I get a woop woop?
Maybe Cage will step up their vibe to compensate for the mediocre brews [3 Daughters], but at this point, they have a ways to go on even this. The foundation has been laid (have you seen their murals? Sick!) but the interior has some distance to cover in terms of forming a solid image and marketing what they’ve got. As a side note, while live music is not requisite for a successful brewery, [Cycle Brewing], it’s certainly a nice addition when you have an expansive backyard and, erm, nothing else to offer. Just an idea, Cage.