Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai IPA (2013 original review)
Aging beer on oak chips or in barrels has become a big trend in American
brewing in recent years, but it’s not necessarily a guarantee for
success. If it were, Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai IPA would be a good
beer. It’s completely unlike any other oak-aged beer I’ve ever had, so
it’s certainly original. But the end result is a strange-tasting,
I received a 12oz bottle in a trade with a friend in Florida (thanks, Matt!). I poured it into a goblet.
Appearance: Dark amber/orange color, opaque. Forms a two-finger, white,
frothy head which leaves excellent lacing and retains well.
Smell: Potent aroma of dill, cannabis and ash.
Taste: I’ve had regular Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, and even though it’s
been a while, I remember it being a pretty standard, but good American
IPA. If I were drinking this white oak-aged version blind there’s no way
I would peg it as being in the same general style, let alone the same
beer. I appreciate the originality of aging the beer on white oak (and
an IPA instead of an imperial stout at that). However, this is not a
good-tasting beer in my opinion. The palate is completely overrun and
ruined by the white oak presence. The hop character has significantly
faded and the palate is overrun by a potent, distracting taste of herbs
The flavor I was most reminded of was pickle juice as it’s not so much
bitter as it is salty. The white oak imparts the taste of a hot southern
swamp in July. There’s also cigar ash and a slight resiny character. If
I pay attention I can detect some malty sweetness, but it doesn’t make
up for the rest of the palate. I’m not sure what the brewers’ intentions
were with this beer, and I certainly don’t understand the rave reviews.
I doubt it’s an old bottle, I just don’t think this beer is for me.
Drinkability: While I found the taste of Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai
IPA to be off-putting, I have to admit it wasn’t too difficult to get
down. The mouthfeel is medium, with a soft, smooth texture and easy
finish that is surprisingly clean (but with a hint of dill aftertaste).
The 7.5% ABV seems rather high as this drinks like a more sessionable
type brew. I could possibly see this working with a select few Cuban
dishes, but otherwise it’s for acquired tastes only.