Monday, February 18, 2013

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, off-putting beer.

NOTE: read and watch my 2014 re-review here:

   AROMA 4/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 4/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 11/20
Chad9976 (816) - Albany, New York, USA - FEB 18, 2013
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 and ashes.

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.
 Grade: 3/10