In the Tasting Room: Jai Alai IPA From Cigar City Brewing
Friday's here, so it's time for beer.
Every Friday, so long as the creek don't rise, this beer enthusiast will take a look at a Florida beer that, hopefully, should be readily available in a local shop or on tap at your favorite bar.
It's one of the most sought-after India pale ales in the country, having been declared runner-up in Paste magazine's Top of the Hops poll, losing out only to Bell's Two Hearted Ale. It's constantly out of stock, and beer forums are always abuzz with people seeking trade in the hoppy beverage from Tampa's Cigar City Brewing.
Yes, we're talking about the now-iconic flagship beer Jai Alai India Pale Ale.
It may still be in such high demand that stock is limited, but with massive, 120-barrel fermenters being installed in August, 240 barrel brite tanks installed last week that can hold 79,360 cans worth of Jai Alai... it's the beginnings of not having so much of a supply problem.
Luckily for us, new stock arrived to South Florida. We picked up a six-pack, held together with those bright-orange hard plastic can holders (reusable, by the way), under a sign denoting a strict "1 per customer" policy tucked away at customer service. Stock must truly be flying off the shelves if it never actually makes it there.
Our cans were labeled as being canned on September 10, so a 9-day-old pack when it was sampled.
I crack open the can and pour it into a snifter. The amber- to golden-colored beer is a beautiful color, and the pour produces a light white head that slowly dissipates into a thin white lacing. At about a foot away, I can already smell some flowery aromas wafting about. Bringing it under the nose, I'm met with strong grapefruit smells, flowers, leaves, and some bitter orange peel. The taste is a lot sweeter than I was expecting, with a bit of caramel blending in with the citrus notes, very light on the resinous flavors, but still bitter. Closer to bitter citrus. A great example of a Florida-produced IPA. A hop bomb, this is not.
If the recipe hasn't changed much over the years (as an interview with head brewer Wayne Wambles in 2009 divulged the recipe, so homebrewers can take a stab at it), this beer uses hops such as Ahtanum, Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, with dry hopping of Simcoe. Each hop is utilized for its specific flavor addition property, whether bitterness, taste, or aroma. Quite a lot of research was done to find an optimal balance. At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, this is also a beer that will do you well with only a few cans under your belt. It's by no means a fast or sessionable drinker, so savor and enjoy.
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