Bit of a mixed bag at the beginning of 2012. I sampled some more of my Christmas gift beers, went to Craft Beer Co. and The Old Fountain. Of course I also had the opportunity to try Thornbridge’s sherry cask-aged (3 years!) version of their Bracia Old Ale, which sort of put all the other beers I sampled last week in the shade – but I covered this separately, as you see.
On the international front, I finally got my taste buds around the much-talked-about Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing. Since I obsessively follow London beer bars on Twitter, I know that all of them make sure to mention when they’ve got this one on, like it is a big sales argument. And now I understand why – this is a hefty Double/Imperial IPA (ABV 7.5) with lots of fruit on the nose and tounge: mango and pineapple predominantly, with slightly sour notes making me think of those fruits as unripe. The fruit gives way to a strong resiny hoppiness and an ever-so-slightly smoky aftertaste. I know Cigar City makes lots of variations on the Jai Alai (how about a juniper/cedar-aged one, or one flavoured with acai berries and mango?) and I’d be really keen to try them too if they ever show up on these shores. In comparison the Southern Tier IPA at first felt a bit flat, but I just had to get used to the fact that it was just a different take on the genre. The high ABV (6.9) does not come through at all as much as it does in the Jai Alai (or maybe those 0.6 percentage units really make a big difference) – the Southern Tier IPA feels like a much lighter, more workmanlike IPA where the malt is more in balance with the hops. There’s a clear bread-and-butter taste, and where the Jai Alai has unripe fruit, Southern Tier goes for overripe, with quite sweet apple, orange and tropical flavours. All in all a very smooth drink. I’m a big fan of Southern Tier and this did not disappoint.