Jai Alai IPA

Review Date 6/10/2014   Last Updated   11/8/2015   By John Staradumsky

Hey there beer drinker, you say you love your Cigar City Jai Alai India Pale Ale, but do you know what the name really means? Ok maybe you do, as described on the back of the can:

Jai Alai, a game native to the Basque region of Spain, is played on a court called a fronton. Jai Alai players attempt to catch a ball using a curved mitt whilst the ball travels at speeds up to 188mph! Proving they have a sense of humor the Spanish dubbed this game, with its ball traveling at racecar speeds, “the merry game.” Tampa was once home to a bustling Jai Alai fronton but sadly all that remains of Jai Alai in the Tampa Bay area is this India Pale Ale that we brew in tribute to the merry game. The India Pale Ale style of beer has its roots in the ales sent from England to thirsty British troops in India during the 18th century. Pair Jai Alai India Pale Ale with Beef Empanadas, Deviled Crabs and other spicy dishes.

I can tell you firsthand, however, about the excitement of jai alai, because as fate would have it, my old home state of Rhode Island was once the only state besides Florida to have a jai alai fronton. Sadly, the sport is no longer practiced in the Ocean State, which is a shame, because I always enjoyed going to Newport to watch this fast paced game of skill. And bet on it, of course.

Anyway, jai alai is certainly not game for the timid, and the same could be said of Cigar City Jai Ali India Pale Ale. It’s bursting with fresh juicy hop aroma and flavor, and may overwhelm the plates of some. Mostly, though, hopheads like me will adore it.

Jai Alai India Pale Ale is currently a highly sought after beer, but luckily it is available here in Georgia. My days of traveling far and wide to hunt down rare beers are over, not because I don’t love beer as much as I once did, but because there are just so many wonderful brews out there I don’t see the need. As Sherlock’s in Kennesaw stocks this beer, however, I picked up a six-pack.

Jai Alai India Pale Ale has an alcohol content of 7.5% by volume and 70 IBUs. It’s overpriced in my opinion at $11.99 for a six-pack of cans, and that will limit how often I pick it up. 

Cigar City Jai Alai India Pale Ale pours to a bright orange color with a thick creamy head formation and a vibrant zesty orange peel nose. A thick layer of Brussels Lace forms on the sides of my glass. Taking a sip, the beer has thick chewy caramel malts up front (I like that!), then the zesty, citrusy attack begins. This beer is really like a glass of hoppy orange juice, you really get the bright, zesty, juicy flavors of fresh oranges, bitter orange peels and then some familiar hop bitterness and herbal aroma at the last. Jai Ali IPA really is all about the zesty orange hop character, but the supporting malt backbone is admirable, too.

I can see why this beer has such hype surrounding it, but there are lots of other wonderful IPAs out there at a better price. Still, I will absolutely buy this one again: it’s just too good not to. Half star demerit for the price, but still a solid 4.5 with that.

By the way, the can specifically states “Drink Fresh! Do Not Age!”, so the contrarian in me has me doing just that. While this review was of a can only a few months old, I have some stashed to see how it develops over time. Further details to come on that.

Update 11/8/2015: I'm back! And while I don't have any aged Jai Alai to tell you about, I do have another tale about a fresh sample. This time I'm drinking about as fresh as you can, a draft mug of Jai Alai IPA at Taco Mac. Draft Jai Alai speaks to the growing availability of Cigar City beers here in Georgia, and while I only see about 4 different styles from them, they're a lot easier to find these days. Draft Jai Alai is a thing of beauty, rich with malt and bursting with fresh juicy citrus flavor. It's a great beer to enjoy on a Sunday of football, and priced lower than I expected at $6.50 for a full mug pour.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.