Cigar City Brewing
Jai Alai White Oak Aged IPA
A friend of mine brought me a pack of Cigar City‘s Jai Alai IPA last year as a birthday present, and with all the hype surrounding the Tampa-based brewery – it was my first Cigar City beer – I was ready to be impressed. But unfortunately, I was let down with the final product. The beer wasn’t bad, per se, but I guess I had just built it up in my mind so much that my expectations were too high.
Oh, how a little oak aging can change that.
Cigar City recently released a new batch of Jai Alai aged on white oak. By using that type of oak, the beer is dried out a bit, but it adds a bit of sweetness to the hop profile. I love oak-aged beers, but I was iffy on what it would do to an IPA. All those doubts were gone after the first sip.
The pour is a really hazy deep orange color topped with a finger of a bubbly head that gives way to mild lacing and alcohol legs.
The oak is incredibly noticeable as soon as you start pour the beer. It just wafts out of the glass. It gives off a big sweet woody note backed with a good hop bite. I got hints of scuppernongs, pineapple and oranges. The white oak really does do a great job of adding a crisp yet sweeter note.
The taste starts out simple enough on the palate. There’s a very mild hop bite and a medium mouthfeel, but the oak erupts on the back. It’s extremely dry, with an almost white wine character, but also just the right amount of sweet. Amazing flavor. That Jai Alai taste is there, but with the fruit flavor kicked up a bit. Good piney bitterness, a bit of malt and a definite vanilla quality round it out.
Dogfish Head‘s Burton Baton set the bar for oak-aged IPAs for me, but White Oak Jai Alai comes in a close second. For a lighter single IPA, the white oak is a perfect choice, drying the beer out just enough to impart a sweeter note. The wood is unmistakably present and strong, but as with any good oak-aged beers, it adds to the beers instead of distracting drinkers from everything else going on.