Today’s $160-billion airline industry started on January 1, 1914 when local pilot Tony Jannus landed a biplane near downtown Tampa, Fl.
The former mayor of St. Petersburg, normally three hours away by train, paid $400 for the 23-min flight. Tony, at age 24, became the world’s first commercial pilot.
Tony had already made a name for himself in the emerging aeronautical industry. In 1912, he piloted the first parachutist to jump from a moving aircraft. Tony regularly set altitude records. He was known as a lady’s man, a daredevil, the center of attention at every party he attended.
But it all ended on Oct. 12, 1916 when his plane malfunctioned and crashed into the Black Sea. Tony’s body was never recovered.
The young pilot’s legacy lives on. Every year the Tony Jannus Award is bestowed upon airline industry pioneers. Past recipients include Sir Richard Branson and the CEOs of nearly every airline you can name.
Tony is also the namesake of a bright, citrusy pale ale brewed on site at Cigar City Brewing in Terminal C of Florida’s Tampa International Airport, the only airport brewery in the United States. It’s an annex of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, recently voted the fourth best in the world by ratebeer.com, one of the top websites for ale aficionados.
Like all of Cigar City’s brews, the Tony Jannus pale ale honors Tampa and Florida’s history and culture. The beer packs an orange and grapefruit punch, a nod to the state’s status as the largest US citrus producer. The pale ale’s cedar finish comes from the time it spends in cigar boxes, paying respect to Tampa’s position as “cigar capital of the world” in the early 1900s.
The Tony Jannus pale ale is only available on tap, but the airport brewery has a package license. Passengers can purchase other Cigar City specialities – like the award-winning Jai Alai IPA or the Florida Cracker white ale – for $12.99 or $14.99 per six pack.
“One woman threw out a pair of shoes so she could fit a few six packs in her bag,” said Tony Feldman, manager of the airport brewery.
Greg Taplin, a local teacher with a delayed flight, ordered Cigar City’s Helles lager instead of his go-to beer, Miller Lite. The Helles is perhaps Cigar City’s most easy-drinking beer. But since it’s brewed with German hops, the lager has a much cleaner taste than your typical light beer.
“They’re close,” he said when asked to compare his old standby to the Helles in his hand. “But this is better.”