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 Montana, Cuban 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.