Beer: Jai Alai IPA
Brewery: Cigar City Brewing Company, Tampa, Florida
|A Florida beer on a real, Florida kitchen table. How authentic!|
Let’s play a game of word association. If I say the words “Florida” and “beer” to you, what image pops into your head? Give it a minute. Ready? Here’s mine: a fat white guy wearing a wife beater in a trailer park throwing an empty bottle of Miller Lite at a cameraman for Cops.
|And this is his Twitter feed|
Surely this image gives an unfair portrayal of Florida and its beer scene. There are old people there too, and many Floridians prefer Busch over Miller Lite. But the guy on Cops is still what I think of first. And I’ve been to Florida, like, 15 times!
|The skyline of Ocala, probably.|
Okay, joking aside, Florida isn’t all that bad once you get past the humidity and complete lack of topographic relief. It’s not cold, which is nice. Miami is interesting enough, from what I’ve heard from friends and seen on Burn Notice (I haven’t been since I was ten). There are, um, theme parks? And armadillos. Sorry guys, I’m struggling here.
|There are breweries! Yes! But instead of being located in Tampa's party central neighborhood, Cigar City is located here, in a warehouse by the aiport. Which is fine by me, actually.|
At least good beer has come to Florida. There are several breweries making tasty suds in the Sunshine State, but none of them distribute as far away as California, so I had to go visit my in-laws to try some. They live outside Tampa, so my wife and I checked out Cigar City Brewing Company during our last trip back east. We would have stayed longer, but there were literally zero seats available inside the brewery, forcing us to sit outside, where it was Florida. I was able to try four of their beers, however, two of which were interesting, to say the least: the Cucumber Saison, which I imagine is fantastic if you like cucumbers, and the Humidor Imperial Stout, which tasted slightly like dirt and patchouli, but in a pleasant, earthy way. (I also had something called Florida Cracker White Ale, which that guy on Cops would probably like if he’d only try it).
|Tasty drinks from Cigar City.|
The samplers were enjoyable in small quantities, but I had heard many good things about the Jai Alai IPA, so I brought a six pack of it back to my in-laws' house. It was a real-deal, ultra-hoppy west coast IPA, using citrusy hops instead of piney hops, which is fitting given its Florida origin. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’m not alone: it scores a 99 on RateBeer, which compares very favorably with my last entry from Puerto Rico, which scores a 1.
|1) Good call on the cans, Cigar City, which enables me to bring your beer back to the west coast without worrying about it breaking in my luggage. 2) 7.5% packs quite a punch, like 200 mph pelota to the cabeza.|
I also have to applaud Cigar City on their geographic awareness. The brewery’s name is a reference to its original location in Ybor City, Tampa’s traditional Cuban neighborhood, which has lately transformed into Bourbon Street minus the jazz and boobs. While Cigar City has proudly been located “Not in Ybor Since 2009,” many of their beers pay homage to the region, like the Florida Cracker (a nickname for an early white Florida settler), the Tocobaga Red Ale (named after the local indigenous tribe that the Florida Crackers probably wiped out), and WAIT A SECOND, DID THEY JUST NAME THEIR WHITE BEER AFTER A DEROGATORY WORD FOR WHITE PEOPLE, AND THEIR RED BEER AFTER A NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE???
Where was I? Oh, and the Jai Alai IPA, named after “the most dangerous game,” once popular as a spectator sport throughout Florida because you could gamble on it and because it involves a 200 mile-per-hour ball hurtling at your face, with only a wicker basket tied to your hand to defend yourself from concussion or major dental work. Seriously, check it out. The beer, not the sport. For that, we have Youtube.