Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cigar City Brewing - Jai Alai

It is only through a cruel trick of nature that I lived in Tampa, FL for two years and never found the time to visit Cigar City Brewing.  I somehow found the opportunity to visit Yuengling, but never Cigar City.  Don't ask.  Thankfully, my good drinkin' buddy Keith still resides down there and will send me the bottles that I cannot necessarily find around the rural midwest. This is one of those bottles.  I have had (and loved) the Cigar City stouts and other dark beers, but not really delved into their IPAs before.  That said, I have been looking forward to this for a while now.  Let's pour!

Pictue is my own.  Bottle image art used without permission for educational purposes only.
Aroma 11/12
This is a more citrusy version of an IPA, but still very attractive.  The first notes are honey and distinct grapefruit, but slowly show more lemon citrus as well.  Eventually the malt show up in the background as a light, sweet bready smell; almost that of enriched bread.  Even that is short lasting and the beer eventually settles into a crisp, clean citrus.  It smells like it will be a most quenching beer.

Appearance 3/3
A generous head appears like a cloudy, but remains smooth and avoids becoming lumpy.  The color is almost as attractive as the aroma.  A bright pumpkin orange, but with plenty of complimentary hues of copper, gold, ocher, and some that border on shades of red.

Picture is my own, but it appears darker than IRL in this photo.
Flavor 15/20
Crisp citrus is the first flavor to come aboard, but the malts are not far behind with their ladles full of caramel.  In an inverse from the aroma, there is barely any sweet bread flavor, but lots of caramel.  It also includes a slight citrus sweet.  The backbone is a larger picture of the same, plenty of malt sweetness that occasionally hints at raw sugar origins, combined with a lesser citrus, and... well, that's about it.  When held in the mouth it also yields a faint spice and even fainter bitter, but the malt in this IPA seems to dominate.  The finish is sweet, then clean, and only leaves a light-to-moderate bitter bite.  The aftertaste is faint at best is really only present as a slight bitter left on the sides of the tongue.

Mouthfeel 3/5
When I was more than halfway through the beer and finally read on the label that it had 7.5% ABV, I was pretty surprised.  Nowhere in this beer does that alcohol become apparent.  The body is medium to compliment some of the more refreshing characteristics of this beer, but it feels heavier with the extreme loss of carbonation at just past the halfway point.

Overall Impression 6/10
Excellent aroma and appearance.  Flavor is sweet for the style and many IPA drinkers, let alone hopheads, could be disappointed.  A nice entry into the style; like a Merlot that is not very dry, you have to start somewhere.  Perfectly camouflaged warmth earned points, but the syrupy characteristic given from the lackluster carbonation is not a selling point.  Looks like I will have to drink the next one more quickly.

Total 38/50
The scoring started high, but faltered a bit when the flavor turned out to be fairly basic and pretty malt-heavy for an IPA.  While far from a bad beer, I would feel more comfortable recommending this to someone that wants to get in to IPAs and not someone that currently loves them.  However, not every IPA has to be a complete ball busting, enamel melting, tongue stabber.  Some might care for this less aggressive offering.  I scored it lower not for its lack of zeal, but for a flavor that wasn't really complex and seemed to malt-laden for an IPA.

In this beer's defense, I am not exactly sure when it was bottled.  There are numbers on the bottle that read 04.0711.  While I've only held onto this bottle for less than a month, if it was bottled over 4 months ago, I can definitely say that the hop profile would be degraded and that the beer deserves a second chance.  That sounds like as good an excuse as any, right?

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