I usually try to drink local, as a (probably a little too proud) Chicagoan – but every now and then I’ll reach for less regional beer. This time, I went for Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai, a hell of an IPA.
Of the many surprising things to come out of Florida, this is a pleasant and welcomed one. Strong notes of orange and clementine shine through like the sun on a Floridian summer day – with a slight caramel twinge. In fact, those citrus fruits smack you in the face, like a pelota striking a negligent jai alai player. Archer, anyone?
Anyway, while what I just described might sound immediately translatable to any other citra (or some “C” variant) hop heavy IPA with a bit of caramel, it’s distinctly different and makes its own name in a fairly crowded playing field. It has a clean citrus flavor with a light, sweet caramel undertone. I’m typically partial to adding a bit of Melanoidin to IPAs or session IPAs as a way to impart an interesting kettle burn flavor, but I was delighted with the straight caramel notes.
However, as the headache I experienced a few mornings ago can attest… they aren’t lying about this 7.5% abv. The hops have done an excellent job of masking just how boozy this was, while expertly complementing the full body of the beer.
Next time I’m in Tampa I know where I’m going to spend an irresponsible amount of my money – and will likely tip whatever poor Uber driver has to schlep me back to wherever I’d be staying… wait where is that again?
For those interested, here’s what Jai Alai looks like: