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Belt’s Beer Garden: Getting Jai

Cigar City’s Jai Alai & Crazy Mountain’s Hookiebobb

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The beers I have for you might be hard to pronounce but they’re sure easy to drink!

First up I have Jai Alai (pronounced ‘high a-lie’ for those that don’t get the title of this piece) from Cigar City.

Cigar City was founded in Tampa, Florida back in 2009. Since then they have increased production 65-fold – from 1000 barrels to 65,000 in 2016. And that number will continue to rise as, in April of 2016, Oskar Blues bought Cigar City.

You can find Cigar City throughout Florida and in parts of Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia. They offer six year-round brews, including the one that put them in the spotlight…which is the beer I have for you today.

Jai Alai, their staple IPA, has won numerous awards, is listed as one of the top IPAs in the US, and has been in my wish-list for years. When my best friend took a trip to Florida, I made sure he knew to find this for me. He did not disappoint.

The beer is made with six different hops – Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, CTZ, Motueka, and Simcoe – and six-pack of cans runs around $11, making it a dash above average. But each can really packs a punch with a 7.5% ABV and 70 IBU.

Jai Alai poured a golden copper color with about a finger and a half of pure white head topping it all. The foam fizzled away rather quickly, leaving nothing more than a few clumps of bubbles across the surface and a ring around the edge.

On the nose there was a nice hoppy, bubblegum aroma that gave way to notes of citrus (tangerine, orange peel, and lemon zest) and caramel malt. Behind all that was just the tiniest dash of pine but, for the most part, it was a very sugary-sweet aroma.

The sip began with a moderate amount of carbonation that quickly gave way to the hoppy flavors that followed.

Up front the citrus shines with bold notes of orange and lemon. Then, in the middle, Jai Alai takes a turn as the multitude of hops bring a bitter spiciness that is (somewhat) washed away by a sugary bubblegum and sweet caramel flavor.

As everything begins to fade away two things remain: a bitter sting and bubble gummy sweetness that continued to do battle on my taste buds for a few moments after the sip ends.

Other that the fight at the end, Jai Alai ends cleanly and with very little dryness.

I can see why this IPA made them famous. It has a lot of great citrus/sweet flavors, a crisp/clean body, and would make any hop-head proud with the big, but not overbearing, bitterness.

This was one of the beers I had been waiting to try and it did not disappoint. If you haven’t had this…look for it. You’ll be glad you do.

A-

Next up, continuing the “high” joke from the title, I have a brew that comes from nearly 1.5 miles above sea level (that’s pretty high) - Crazy Mountain’s Hookiebobb.

Crazy Mountain began back in 2010 in Colorado’s Edwards community, about 110 miles west of Denver, smack dab in the Rockies, more than 7200 feet above sea level. More recently they expanded and introduced a brew-pub in Denver that has 24 taps.

You can find Crazy Mountain in nearly half the US (22 states, mostly west of the Mississippi River) and nine countries. But they are slowly creeping in to the Chicagoland market which allowed me to find one of ten their year-round brews.

Hookiebobb, their staple IPA, is made by using three hops (aggressively) and caramel malt to create a beer that has a solid 6.7% ABV and 87 IBU. A six-pack will set you back around $11. Plus, it has one of the coolest barcodes I’ve seen on a product!

(How sweet is this?!)

Anyway, Hookiebobb poured a cloudy orange straw color with minimal head. Just a thin line of white foam sat across the top of the brew and, within a few moments, all that was left of that was a small gathering around the edge with the middle being almost free of all bubbles.

On the nose there was a bright citrus aroma featuring a heavy dose of grapefruit with some lemon, orange, and mango backing it all up. Behind the fruit was a spicy hop profile that show signs of some bitterness and even a sweet, cracker malt.

My first sip began with just a dash of carbonation that quickly gave way to the hoppy goodness that followed.

Initially, as the smell indicated, it was the tropical fruits that made an impact on my taste buds. There was a sharp, and surprisingly tart, bite from the grapefruit that was eventually calmed by the (somehow) less sour lemon and orange flavors that quickly followed the grapefruit.

Midway through the bready malts added a nice sweetness that sliced through the hops and quelled the 87 IBU making Hookiebobb very palatable and not bitter.

I was quite surprised at just how balanced this brew became after the initial hop-shock. The malts played really well with the hops and the two to continued on nicely without stepping on each other’s toes.

The entire back half of the sip was a balance between the flavorful citrusy notes from the hops and the sweet, slightly toasted malts that slowly faded away. However, the hops would have the last laugh.

There was one last pop that filled my palate with a burst of citrusy, bitter hops as everything diminished; leaving a lingering sticky-sweet tropical fruit aftertaste with a dash of bitterness clinging on as well.

The solid 6.7% ABV was hidden really well with all the flavors that coursed through the beer. And the small amount of carbonation/head led to very little lacing – just a streak or two randomly throughout the side of the glass.

But, all in all, Hookiebobb was a pretty dang tasty beer. The high IBU might scare some people away but the malts did very well to balance it out and really cut into the bitterness which led to an easy to drink IPA filled with both citrus and sweet bready malt flavors.