Brew Review

Beer Review – Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai IPA


When I hear the word Jai Alai, the opening credits to a dated 80s TV show immediately comes to mind…

Crockett. Tubbs. Jan Hammer’s music. Ferrari Daytona Spyder. Pink t-shirts paired with neon colored, linen blazers .

I’m thinking Miami, but in actuality, I should be thinking Tampa, because Jai Alai is the name of an India Pale Ale brewed by Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, FL. Right state. Wrong city. Gone are my visions of Hyman Roth at the Fountainbleu, Tony MontanaCuban Sandwiches, Joe’s Stone Crab, Bacardi rum cocktails, and of course South Beach.  Thankfully, these visions have been replaced with a very delicious beer!

The Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA pours a slightly cloudy, amber color with a thick, one inch head that dissipates slowly, and leaves moderate lacing on the glass. Upon closer inspection, I notice that there are lots of tiny, fast moving bubbles rising to the surface, which lead me to believe that this is a well carbonated brew. When I let my nose hover over the rim of the glass and take a deep breath, I detect the aroma of oranges, honey, sweet roasted malt, and bright, floral hops (6 different varieties are used to make this beer). I also pick up a funky smell that I am unable to pinpoint.

That first sip confirms my suspicions about the carbonation. The Jai Alai IPA has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and those fast moving bubbles tickle your taste buds. The upfront flavors are all sweet malt, honey, and a subtle hint of yeast. At mid-palate, you get that classic IPA hoppiness, which leads you towards a pleasant and long lasting bitter finish.

Though I have been burned in the past by the allure of an eye catching label (Breckenridge Vanilla Porter immediately comes to mind), I am happy to report that the Jai Alai IPA is beautiful both inside and out (check out the label artist’s website). If I were to compare this beer to other IPAs, I would say that it closely resembles the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale or the Great Lakes Commodore Perry. Well balanced, a bit more sweet than bitter, and exceptionally smooth for a beer with a 7.5% ABV. I would definitely buy this again.

12 replies »

  1. Now THAT’S a great review!

    Also a great IPA. I was lucky enough to find a bottle at Philly’s aptly named Beer Heaven off of Front Street (though I’ve also seen it at the original Foodery on 10th & Pine). Tough to get Cigar City brews around here but much like San Diego’s Ballast Point, Philly gets a handful of their brews because of its reputation as such a great beer drinking – and craft beer appreciating – city.

    Cigar City proves that it is possible to brew world class craft beer in the deep south. Hopefully we’ll a chance to sample some of their even rarer offerings during or after Philly Beer Week. Tria has (or had) their Maduro Brown in bottles a few months ago and Varga Bar was lucky enough to get a few of the Humidor Series brews last fall.

    Cheers to the Basque Seperatists that keep the Jai Alai frontons well stocked with tiny athletes and cheers to Cigar City for allowing a few Philly craft beer joints to stock their brews.

    @TheAlemonger

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  2. Aside from your reference to a “funky smell”, this sounds like a great beer. I guess I missed the Malt Monday text.

    In the event we are traveling with our combined circus to FL sometime this year, I suggest we find the time to sample some of Cigar City’s additional product line. Maybe we can find a FL Pourhouse?

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    • I wrote this up last week. There was no Malt Madness Monday text, but the way the week is going, Thirsty Thursday may be mandatory.

      This was a really good beer. Not super bitter, so it may be right up your alley.

      I like your Florida plan! We’ll discuss this further I’m sure.

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  3. Hey G-LO – I’ve never seen this one in Maryland, I wonder if they distribute here. Sounds like a good one. I’m even ok with funky, as long as it’s intentional. Nice review!

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    • The funk was very very subtle and was nowhere to be found when I tasted it. It’s rare that I pick up on that kind of stuff, but it bothered me cause I couldn’t describe it, so I thought I may as well mention it in the review.

      Thanks for the compliment!

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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  4. I went by Cigar City and picked up a growler of this after buying it in a grocery store. I, too, like a glass of it. But after that the funkiness that you mentioned seemed to take over. But still a very nice IPA.

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    • You lucky bastard! I’ve had two of their beers so far and I am very impressed. The Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale and Jai Alai are excellent. Hope to see more of their beers up here, especially during Philly Beer Week. Also, good to know that I wasn’t the only one that picked up on the very slight funk. Didn’t diminish the enjoyment, but it was there.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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