I’d Tap That: Jai Alai king of Cigar City’s world-class roster of craft beers
Fruity aromatics are present throughout, and a glass that captures that will enhance the drinking experience. The Spiegelau IPA glass, snifter and tulip are best, but a nonic pint or oversized wine glass will do in a pinch. It should be noted this is a perfect IPA even when enjoyed straight from the can.
Jai Alai pours copper in color with an off-white head that leaves behind layers of lacing on the glass. Strong notes of citrus and tropical fruit dominate the aroma with backing hints of sweet malts. The taste has upfront citrus bitterness with a hint of sweet caramel malt in the mid-palate and finishes with citrus and tropical fruit hop notes that leave a semi-dry finish and the drinker wanting more. The medium body and moderate carbonation give this beer an extremely smooth and creamy mouthfeel that imparts a hop-candy like taste without being overly cloying. The hops are apparent throughout the beer but stray from becoming overly aggressive, which makes Jai Alai a great beer to have handy for all occasions.
The subtle hop bite and sweet-malt character of the beer pair wonderfully with spicy foods of all varieties. Mexican dishes are especially delicious with Jai Alai. Try pairing with huarache, tamales, tostadas, chile relleno, and, of course, tacos and burritos. Any spice will be enhanced by the hops but quickly subdued by the sweet hefty malt profile that scrubs the palate clean between each bite. Jai matches with Indian and Thai cuisine as well, bringing a wonderful citrus fruit profile to many of the dishes. Both the beer and dish are enhanced by this marriage. For a truly wonderful blend, pair Jai Alai with Cuban food such as fried plantains, coconut chicken, pulpeta, ropa vieja, and spicy mojo chicken with mango avocado sauce. Jai Alai is great to experiment with as it has enough heft to hold its own against many dishes but particularly complements dishes that are enhanced by citrus and tropical fruit flavors.
The Final Word
Cigar City has an incredible reputation earned through brewing world class beers that are both fan favorites and award winners. Jai Alai has long been one of their most popular beers which is quite impressive when the beer roster is full of world class beers. However, one sip and it is easy to understand why this a beer that hopheads bow down and worship while still being quite approachable to the novice IPA drinker. If you are looking for a variation on Jai Alai that adds even more to the flavor profile, Jai Alai White Oak is incredible. Bottom line: if you are a fan of hoppy beers, Jai Alai is an absolute must try.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.
Brewer: Cigar City Brewing
Beer: Jai Alai
Style: American IPA