I quickly realized during my recent trip to Florida that there’s really no reason to drink anything other than Cigar City beer. They make so many great versions of so many of their beers, and their distribution is so limited, that while you’re there you might as well make the most of it and drink what you can.
I quickly learned that, while it was tempting to try some of the local south Florida microbrews, I should have stuck with Cigar City. I’m still at the point in my Aleheadedness where I can’t pass up the opportunity to try something new and different–even if I know it’s going to be inferior to the beer on the shelf next to it. Perhaps when I’m an older, wiser Alehead (50% of those things are likely to happen), I’ll just stick to what I know is a world class beer. But door #2 is so tempting…can’t…help…myself…
Take the Jai Alai IPA. It was the first beer I purchased, and it was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. In 9 days, I must have had a six pack every other day. I’m not going to review the beer in any detail, as that’s been done, but I will say that this is a first-rate offering. I enjoy few beers more than a perfectly balanced, flavorful IPA; and the Jai Alai fits the bill. Absolutely delicious. (I liked it more than the cedar-aged version, which turned the beer into painful reminders of the wood chips your mom used to put in your clothes drawers).
Then there was the Maduro. In this beer, Cigar City has produced a flavorful, sessionable brown ale that was a staple in our fridge, along with the Jai Alai, for the duration of the trip. I highly recommend going back and forth between Jai Alai and Maduro for an afternoon session, that turns into an evening session, that turns into, well, you know how it goes.
Alas, I was only able to sample one more beer from Cigar City while I was there: the Improvisacion. The beer is described as an “Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale.” If you didn’t just say to yourself: “Oh my god that sounds good” then you’re probably not an Alehead.
The beer poured a dark, murky, Thanksgiving chestnut brown. The head was about 2 fingers, and stuck around for a bit. The nose in this beer was unlike anything I’ve ever smelled before. I’m not sure I have the necessary olfactory capacity to do this beer justice. A subtle blend of all sorts of things: breads, rye, caramel, maybe some tropical fruits. This one definitely got the best of me. With such a subtle and complex nose, I was of course curious what the taste had in store. Well, it was subtle. Same kinds of notes as in the nose. Given all of the delicious ingredients on the front, I would have expected this to be a more aggressive beer. But it stayed mellow even as it warmed. The mouthfeel was creamy, yet simultaneously slick and silky smooth. At 9%, it’s not exactly a session beer, although you can’t taste even the first hint of alcohol burn. But at $12 for a bomber, I can’t imagine having many of these in my fridge.
I think I had difficulty approaching this beer because it touches on so many styles: it’s got the mellow nature of a brown ale, the tropical hoppiness of an IPA, a touch of spice from rye ales, and a touch of weight from the oatmeal. It defies definition, really. It’s impressive what they’ve done with this: create an extremely drinkable beer blending so many different ingredients from so many different styles. But I can’t justify 4 hops for this one. While it’s an extremely complex beer, it’s still a subtle brown ale. 3.5 hops for another Cigar City offering you should really try if you get the chance.