Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cigar City White Oak Jai Alai IPA (2014 re-review)

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 5/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 16/20
Chad9976 (1044) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 18, 2014
I poured a 12oz can into a goblet. It was canned on 1/10/14.

Appearance: Beautiful, clear copper/orange hue with plenty of effervescence streaming up. Pours to a two-finger, white, frothy head which retains and laces really well.

Smell: An interesting aroma of vanilla, dill, and orange juice concentrate. Odd, but not off-putting.

Taste: I originally reviewed this back in February of 2013, but it wasn’t exactly a fair review since the bottle was most likely quite old at the time (however, there was no bottling date on it). It was so bad it actually made my Top 10 Worst Beers of 2013 list, which came to the attention of the brewery. They reached out to me and offered to send me a fresh four-pack of cans straight off the bottling line. I thought it would be nice to give the beer a second chance. I’m glad I did because the palette is completely different from how I remember it.

Cigar City is known for making some unusual beers and experimental brewing techniques. So, aging an IPA on white oak seems right up their alley. And this white oak aged Jai Alai IPA is definitely unusual for the style. I truly believe that experimental does not equate to quality, but in this case it seems to have worked. There’s a lot of flavors present here I’ve never encountered in an IPA before. Vanilla and dill are noticeable flavors, but they seem to play more of a supporting role. There’s more hop flavor than there is bitterness here. Initially it’s orange juice concentrate - a luscious sweetness, but it changes quickly to pine and resin dankness. The white oak accounts for an herbal quality, plus some vanilla and woody flavors often found in barrel-aged beers.

This is a palette that takes some getting used to. I could understand why this wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but now that I’ve drank it the way it’s supposed to taste I can see what they were going for and I appreciate the originality.

Drinkability: Though the taste is a little weird, I had no trouble getting through a serving of White Oak Jai Alai IPA quite quickly. The mouthfeel is soft and creamy - making it smooth rather than crisp. There is a residual aftertaste of hops and white oak, but it’s tolerable. Though rather hefty at 7.5% ABV, there’s no alcohol distraction. However, I probably couldn’t drink more than one at a time. I’m sure this would pair well with some kind of exotic fare. 
Grade: 8/10

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