4AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
I recently got into an argument with a friend who said every beer he drinks absolutely must be balanced. I said that’s a silly criteria, especially with styles like India Pale Ale since they’re all about the hops (I never pay much attention to their malts anyway). It’s quite ironic that Tampa’s Cigar City Jai Alai IPA would be the next beer I’d try after the conversation since it’s one of those rare IPAs that is not only well-balanced but overtly so. It’s got everything I look for in a beer of this style, and a few added goodies that make me appreciate it even more.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. This beer pours to a surprisingly dark shade of orange/light brown and is mostly clear but a little hazy. It’s light on the bubbles, both above and below the surface as it only formed a pinky-sized, off-white, frothy head that left some lacing on the glass.
The aroma was typical of an East Coast IPA with a pine scent and some floral notes. It was pleasing, but not extremely potent.
Sometimes you can tell how a beer will play out on the first swig alone. As Jai Alai IPA crossed my tongue for the first time I got all the flavor notes I would get throughout the life of this drink. It starts off with a malty rich sweetness, almost bordering on syrup-like. It’s noticeably thick and heavy in the mouth, but remarkably soft. As it finishes there’s a fairly strong hop bitterness that leaves an arid dryness on my palate, but it fades away very quickly. Some IPAs dance on your tongue long after the beer itself is gone, but Jai Alai IPA, much like the fast-paced sport it’s named after, is quite erratic.
It’s rare IPAs have such noticeable malt character to them as this beer does. It’s best described as caramel and perhaps a touch of toffee, but it also has a sugary sweetness like some kind of syrup or fruit extract. The pine-like flavors from the hops only enhance this taste making this a beer extremely well-balanced. I prefer my IPAs on the citrusy side since that is more satisfying and refreshing, but I enjoyed the originality to this beer’s palette.
While I wouldn’t consider Jai Alai IPA refreshing per se, I would say it’s a highly drinkable beer. Many beers of the style are such hop bombs their bitterness can be appreciated by hop heads, but that’s not the case here. The malty components offer a rich sweetness, combined with the low carbonation, short bitter aftertaste, and a texture that’s somewhat thick but very soft in the mouth. It’s not chuggable, but it isn’t difficult to get down, either.
At 7.5% ABV this is indeed a full-bodied beer all around, although I found it to be a little lighter in body than the numbers might indicate. I could definitely recommend pairing a bottle with a spicy dish or snack. I’m not sure this is quite a session beer, but I think anyone could handle two servings.
While this beer didn’t exactly blow my mind the way some others of the style have, I can’t find anything truly "wrong" with Cigar City Jai Alai IPA. It’s got pretty much everything as far as good taste and drinkability go. If I had access to it I’d probably drink it regularly. (note: this beer was sent to me from a friend in Florida as Cigar City is not yet distributed up here in New York so I cannot comment on the price).
NOTE: read my 2016 re-review here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2016/06/cigar-city-jai-alai-ipa-2016-re-review.html