Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cigar City Improvisación

Kevin Burns of joins me for the first time in a while to help me review a big beer I bought when I was in NYC a few weeks ago. This is Cigar City's "Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale" and an imperial at that as it weighs in at 9% ABV. Just from the basic description alone we could both tell we were going to be in for a very unusual, but very intriguing beer. Did it work? Let's see...

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 9/10   PALATE 3/5   OVERALL 18/20
Chad9976 (627) - Albany, USA - APR 23, 2011
I split a 750ml bottle with a friend. I poured mine into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Dark purple/black with slight ruby red hints. Virtually opaque, but some translucency. Forms a two-finger, dark tan, frothy head. Leaves plenty of lacing down the glass and head retains well.

Smell: Surprisingly hoppy for such a hybrid beer style. Some citrus and flowers with distinct roasted malts and sweet oatmeal notes. Caramel and chocolate seem present as well, only extremely dry.

Taste: For a beer that claims to be four styles in one, its not quite the complex palate you would expect. Immediately my palate is slammed with dry bitter hops. There’s a sweet, juice-like flavor underneath it which makes it almost quite refreshing, ironically enough. The second half is much more akin to a very strong brown ale with caramel and bitter dark chocolate. It’s a very interesting contrast to the hoppy bitterness from the first half.

Despite the label, there isn’t much taste of oatmeal or rye in this brew, but their presence is definitely apparent in the texture. Oatmeal gives a thicker, sticky, almost gummy quality to the palate as well as amplifies the confectionary notes. The rye is not very noticeable as a flavor, but more as a boost to the hops and probably accounts for the dry, somewhat spicy finish.

Mouthfeel: Starts out as the dictionary definition of full bodied. Thick, hoppy, and dry in the mouth. Quite intense, but not much noticeable carbonation. Seems to thin out as it warms up.

Drinkability: While this is a very robust and complex beer, Impovisacion is actually quite drinkable, even at 9% ABV. There’s only mild warmth throughout the palate, although the aftertaste is extremely arid. A beer to pair with a hearty meal or enjoy with a friend as a desert unto itself.

Overall, a very impressive and creative beer. Very fun to drink, but isn’t quite among the best of the best (but oh so close).

Grade: 9/10

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