Cigar City Jai Alai IPA. Winging Hops at Your Head at 188 mph!

Cigar City Jai Alai India Pale Ale

Cigar City Brewing

Tampa, Florida, United States

American IPA/7.5% ABV/107 IBU

If you have children in the room,  you may not want to read this review right now.  Go ahead.  Click on another link for this beer there in your Google results.  There are going to be more innuendos in this review then an 8th grade sex ed class.  If the words balls, flying, face, long, drive, and ball speed send your mind to the gutter in any fashion then you may want to read this after your kids go to bed.  Ahem.

A little bit of history behind Jai Alai: Basically, Jai Alai is a game played on a court called a “cancha” between eight teams of two players each or eight single players.  These players fling a ball called a “pelota” which consists of a core of solid rubber wrapped with metal strands tightly wound together and finally wrapped in goat skin.  The balls usually have to be replaced every 10 – 15 minutes during a game because they split from hitting the fronton wall at high speeds.  And with that I have to say that the words “balls” and “split” do not belong in the same sentence together ever, nor in any context.  Mine just crawled up into my stomach after I typed that.  Anyway, this little missile from hell (which has killed players on occasion) is thrown at around, oh, 188 mph from a wicker basket mitt, called a “Cesta”.   Jai Alai is native to the Basque region of Spain, once promoted by it’s government as “the fastest sport in the world because of the balls”, which have been called the “hardest balls of any sport”.  Well, then.  Yes.  I’m sure there’s plenty of disputes that could arise with that claim.  But we will be moving on to the review now.

These balls are harder, faster and more expensive than any you’ve ever played with.  Marinate on that, player.

Appearance : Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my tulip beer drinking vessel.  I got about a finger and a half to two fingers of cream colored head that dissipates EXTREMELY quickly.  After the head disappears there is enough lace to cover a Spanish monarch’s mesa de café.  The beer has a beautiful dark orange/copper hue to it.

Smell:  Hops.  Like a motherfucker.  This is an olfactory Jai Alai game.  As you see in the picture below, it’s like having hops fly at your face.  Floral and citrus.  Grapefruit and orange peel.  Apple, peach and mango.  This is DEFINITELY an aromatic beer.  Swirl the glass a bit and the aromas come up out of the glass and smash your olfactory receptor neurons like a Jai Alai “pelota” flung from Francisco Churruca.  And since your sense of smell is strongly tied to your memory, it reminds you of every other failure of a beer you’ve ever had.  And why the tulip AGAIN you ask? Because this is an aromatic beer and the tulip is the PERFECT bit of glassware to enjoy an aromatic brew such as this.  Sure, I have pint glasses, oversized wine glasses, stout glasses, snifters.  Basically any sort of drinking vessel you can name with your dirty mouth.  But, this being a borderline IPA and DIPA/IIPA  (India Pale Ale and Double India Pale Ale/Imperial India Pale Ale for you noobs) you are getting an aromatically, dramatically and tastetasically crafted craft beer.  However, I will say the beer smells and looks so good you will almost want to just drink this bitch right out of the bottle.  And I did drink 1 from the bottle.  Believe me, it’s just as good straight from the bottle as it is poured.  It’s that good.

This is what the beer smells like.

Sound:  Well, the head disappears pretty quickly and as such, the sound is a very faint and quick crackle an pop.  Not much snap.  I will say, however, that you do get a sort of a rushing air or whooshing sound from the glass.  Its as if the beer’s effervescence is moving out of the glass very quickly in the form of air, which works to dissipate the head of the beer quickly.  Coincidentally, the whooshing sound is what you would hear if a Jai Alai ball were to fly past your head at 188 mph.

Taste:  Well, it’s apparent that they use a variety of hops for this beer (they advertise that they use 6) and you can definitely get the Simcoe hops that are used in the dry hopping.   Grapefruit with tangerine and a bit of floral hops in the taste profile, as well.  Cigar City does do a fantastic job of balancing the beer out with caramel malt sweetness and an ever so slight breadiness to keep things interesting.  However, the hops definitely show their dominance.  It’s as if the hops are the “alcahuete” (Spanish for pimp) and the malts are the “prostituta” in this beer.  Hops definitely run the show.  And at 107 IBUs it’s definitely bitter.

“Malts my ass! I run this!”

Mouthfeel:  Well, here we have a beer with a lot of ball references and we are going to talk about mouthfeel.  Let’s dive right in!  Full bodied, a bit thick, moderate carbonation and a nice bitter back end.  The mouthfeel is fantastic!  (Cough, cough : that’s what she said : cough, cough)

Overall:  I’ve never played Jai Alai before or much less even seen a game played and the only experience I’ve had with Jai Alai prior to this beer is from the opening theme for Miami Vice.    Everything about this beer is great and it will definitely be a regular in my fridge for the foreseeable future.  If you want to read more about Jai Alai the game, The Art of Manliness has a great story on it.  If you want to know more about jai Alai the beer, pick some up and effing drink it.


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