Bolita = Bad things.
Not necessarily bad, as illegal.
Bolita was a numbers game run in Ybor City, Tampa, when the place was still a boomtown for Florida’s cigar industry. It means ‘little ball’ in Spanish, and it’s played with 100 balls, each numbered 1-100 and placed in a black bag.
Players would make bets on what number would be pulled out first. Of course, it was incredibly easy to rig the game, since bets were placed many hours before the actual drawing. Or you could have several additional balls of a specific number, numbers could be frozen and easy to find by touch, etc.
It’s illegal, both here and in its native Cuba. But it’s a part of Tampa history, which is why Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing chose it as the inspiration behind their own game of Bolita (Imperial Brown Ale, 9% ABV, 50 IBU).
It comes as a testament to Wayne and Co. that a 9% beer hides the fact that it’s 9% as well as Bolita does. It drinks moderately lightly, maybe a touch deeper and chewier than Cigar City’s beloved Maduro. There’s a strong undercurrent of walnut, hazelnut, and just a touch of brazil nut deep, deep inside the beer.
Those flavors are accentuated with a heavily roasted caramel, toffee, and chocolate malt character. It has a nuanced touch more hop character from English varieties used in brewing, but this is time for the dark, luscious malt to shine. And shine it does.
There’s a deep, woodsy brown color to the beer, and the aroma continues that dark, meaty sweetness found in the beer itself.
There is, as long as you do it correctly, nothing illegal about drinking this beer. You don’t have to hide it in a black bag, no surreptitious money payouts down dark Ybor alleys. Just a great brown ale.
With a shady past.
Drink Florida Craft,