While I was down in NYC shooting beer promos with Hagan Blount of http://itasteyourbeer.com at "Good Beer NYC" on East 9th Street, I saw that the store carried several Cigar City beers, so I bought a few while I had the opportunity. Their "Humidor Series" beers are made by oak-aging their beers with the addition of cedar chips! I've never had a beer like that before, so I asked Hagan to help me out with a review of this beer (which is their Jai Alai IPA aged on cedar chips).
3.5AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 2/5 OVERALL 15/20
I always appreciate when breweries experiment with beer, but I also believe that just because something is original or unique doesn’t necessarily make it high in quality. That’s a perfect description of Cigar City’s Humidor Series India Pale Ale - which is their Jai Alai IPA aged on Spanish cedar. This would seem to be a strange choice, as most beers are usually aged in bourbon, whiskey or other oak/wood barrels. Cedar is a very aromatic style of wood - how would it work with an otherwise traditional IPA?
I split a 750ml bottle with a friend, poured into a goblets.
Appearance: Very dark orange to light brown color; extremely hazy - can’t tell if there’s carbonation or sediment. Produces a fairly small, yellow, foamy head which eventually dissipates completely.
Smell: Very East Cost-style with light pine, some floral notes and a distinct tropical fruit juice smell (especially mango).
Taste: There are two distinct and powerful flavors present in this IPA. The first half is a traditional IPA with a piney resin, dry bitterness and a surprising dose of guava, papaya and other juice-like flavors. Once it’s gone the palate changes completely to intense black pepper and cedar. It’s a very interesting, strange, and startling contrast. How can a beer be so refreshing at first and finish with such bite at the end?
The cedar and black pepper become stronger the more I drink. The beer itself seems to become thicker, stickier, and more smoky as well. The hops are quite prominent, although I would describe this beer as being much more dry than it is bitter. The hops in conjunction with the cedar really dry out the mouth, but that quick burst of tropical fruit on the following swig is refreshing and tasty every time.
Drinkability: While this beer only weighs in at 7.5% ABV, it seems to have the sheer density of an obese barleywine. The mouthfeel is thick and sticky, on the lower end of full-bodied. A beer like this should be a little lighter and more crisp. The beer hits my tongue with a thud. The strong black pepper and cedar finish make this a one serving-only kind of brew. I think it would pair well with something very smoky and dry spicy like a pork tenderloin with garlic and peppercorn.
Overall, Humidor Series IPA is a very impressive beer and will likely catch beer drinkers of all experiences levels off guard. At $12 a bottle I’m not quite sure it’s worth it, but splitting the bill and the bottle with a friend or two would make it a good buy.
NOTE: read my 2013 re-review here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2013/10/cigar-city-humidor-series-ipa-2013-re.html