Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cigar City Jai Alai vs White Oak-Aged Jai Alai

 Brewery: Cigar City Brewing
Location: Tampa, FL
Style: IPA
ABV: 7.5%
Price: $10.99/6pk (Jai Alai) $9.99/4pk (White Oak Aged Jai Alai)

With the recent release of White Oak Aged Jai Alai, I have been itching to pair it with the regular release and share my notes and critiques of each. Also, this was just a good excuse for me to pour myself two beers simultaneously without looking like I have a drinking problem.

Most importantly, I am excited to record my thoughts on how much Jai Alai changes after being aged on the white oak. I have always loved Jai Alai by itself and am curious to see how the white oak variation compares.

We'll start with the regular release of Jai Alai.

Jai Alai pours an orangish-red hue with a strong head that remains in the glass and puts out a pretty good lacing.


The aroma is beautiful. Lots of grapefruit and lemon with a malt sweetness underneath. This is exactly what I imagine a citrus farm smelling like as you walk through the rows of fruit-bearing trees (I've never been to a citrus farms, but that's how I imagine them).

The flavor comes at you with a stinging sharpness from the hops. There's no doubting this is an IPA and Cigar City doesn't shy away from the bitterness. Once Jai Alai passes the front of the palate, there is a subtle yet distinct malt-sweetness that quickly fades in a dry and bitter finish. After a couple sips, I noticed that the beer started to taste sweeter. It's almost as if my taste-buds adjusted.

Now we move to the White Oak Jai Alai:

The White Oak-Aged Jai Alai pours a cloudy yellow with hints of amber.

The aroma is dominated by the oak. The citrus notes still come forward, but they are mellowed in comparison and a bit more complex. There's a nice scent of vanilla that comes through on this as well. There's a lot going on, but I really like how this one smells.

What a great flavor! The body is much creamier than the regular version of Jai Alai. Like most IPAs after they've been aged, the citrus/hops are mild and balanced by a malted sweetness. The hops are not nearly as prolific as the regular release, but the flavors are balanced and enjoyable. The vanilla finish is nice. Smooth. And unlike other beers that have been oaked, there's not a smokiness that comes through prevalently with other beers (see Oaked Arrogant Bastard).

Which Do I Prefer?

Tasting these together really presents a nice opportunity to pick up on the different complexities in each beer, and analyze the affect of aging Jai Alai on the white oak. Cigar City pulls both off excellently. Each variation offers something unique to patrons looking for something bitter, hoppy, and complex to satisfy the palate.

Although I think it's probably a bit silly to name one a "winner" over the other, if I had to choose, I would go with the regular Jai Alai over the aged version. When fresh, Jai Alai is a superb IPA with a wonderful citrus profile that's simply exceptional.

But as I said, it's silly to name one a winner because they are both great beers; each presents a unique beer-tasting experience for the consumer. If you have a chance to taste both, I recommend you trying these together and see for yourself how the oak changes the flavor profile of the original.

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