It has been more than a hot minute since I have consumed anything by Cigar City Brewing, much less written about it.
In fact, I think the last few beers of theirs that I wrote about were from their Brewpub located in Terminal C at Tampa International Airport. With changes going on, both personal and global, I’m not sure if I’ll be getting back there again, which is a shame. They did a big, bold redesigned that I absolutely adore, and really brought their one barrel brew system front and center.
Speaking of redesigns, I have actually not been to the Cigar City production taproom since they did their massive renovation. Heck, I’m still bummed that it doesn’t look like the cigar roller is there anymore. I know fresh handmade cigars are a dime a dozen in Tampa, but it’s just something that I adored about Cigar City.
And I’m bringing all of that together since the beer that roused me out of my Cigar City drought was a Spanish Cedar variant of their beloved flagship Jai Alai (IPA, 7.5% ABV, 65 IBU). Jai Alai has been around for years, and I started to notice it creep across the country ever since Cigar City’s sale to Canarchy. I’ve also noticed that the White Oak Aged Jai Alai variant seems to be rather beloved by IPA drinkers. I know they’ve also released a low-calorie version, but they also released this one, aged on Spanish Cedar.
I don’t know a ton about cigars, but I’d love to learn more, and I do know that’s one of the styles of wood that is used for cigar humidors. Being a big cigar fan, although a rather uneducated one, I wanted to try this just to see if those Cedar notes really permeated the beer and helped to tame and culture the bitterness.
The beer pours a beautifully orange color, almost like a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice. The aroma has a lot going for it, since Jai Alai is a very citrus-forward IPA, and yet breathing deeply you get these wonderfully mature woody notes, tinted with a light vanilla and pepper aroma. The flavor is out of this world, and it’s almost like drinking a cigar.
You have bold, dank and resiny notes of grapefruit and blood orange and pine, but those mill around in a luxuriously woody mixture of black peppercorn, aged tobacco, and the wonderfully dark Cedar notes I was hoping for. This is a bold and beefy IPA, and the aging did absolute wonders to differentiate this from the standard Jai Alai you can find pretty much everywhere.
After this, it’s my hope that more breweries play around with different woods in which to age their beer, as the Spanish Cedar did beautifully for this style. I’m not the biggest IPA drinker, but this is a beer that was almost brewed specifically to pair with the cigar, and I cannot see how that combination wouldn’t be immensely enjoyable.
And if that cigar with hand-rolled cigar from Cigar City, that would make it even better.
Drink Florida Craft,
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