Hops, Malts, Gourds…Cigar City Brewing Does It All

Under the leadership of founder Joey Redner and brewmaster Wayne Wambles, Cigar City Brewing Company (Tampa, Florida) has become known for brewing some of the most creative and innovative beers available to craft beer drinkers nowadays. In turn, when thinking about which craft breweries’ beers relate most to my goals for The Brewed Palate; Cigar City was one of the first that came to mind. Therefore, after contacting the brewery to let them know about my blog, I was glad that they sent me a variety of beers that to me showcase the passion and creativity behind their tasty boundary pushing beers.

20121110_225819Cigar City 110k+OT Batch 5

As the hoppiest beer of the trio of beers that I received for review I chose to open this one first to enjoy the hops as fresh as possible. In addition, I was also curious to taste and smell the affect of the added curacao peel. 110k+OT poured copper to dark gold in color with a one finger off white head that left great lacing on my snifter glass as I slowly savored this double IPA’s complex hop character. As expected the beer had a cloudy body due to yeast leftover from bottle conditioning.

Moving onto the aroma I immediately knew that this bottle was a fresh one. I was met with big notes of peach, lemon, tropical fruit, and a sweet bready malt backbone. Despite its apparent sweetness the malt backbone blended with and at times enhanced the juicy hop aroma which became more complex over time with some added notes of tropical fruit and floral hops. The beer’s flavor profile was similar to its aroma with each sip including a big citrusy and tropical hop character which included notes of  sweet grapefruit, peach, and orange. The malt backbone and finish were a bit boozy at first, but were not too hard to get used to as I casually drank this great Cigar City double IPA while watching tv. Overall the malt flavors enhanced the hops, but I should note that along with the beer’s moderate bitterness I detected some sweet caramel malt in the finish (especially as I took my last few sips)

When reviewing “big beers” it is especially important to comment on the beer’s mouthfeel and drinkability. This is because the higher alcohol content can at times lead to a quite viscous mouthfeel and less pleasing drinkability. With respect to 110k+OT Batch 5’s 11% abv, drinkability was surprisingly high and only minutely affected (a touch of heat in the finish) and wasn’t nearly as boozy as I thought it would be after reading some reviews. Though if you’re new to IPAs of this magnitude (abv) or more sensitive to booziness in beers etc. then I’d recommend drinking this beer on the colder side (45-50F). Its mouthfeel was medium and smooth, and the hop bitterness did not linger which increased my ability to enjoy the complex hop flavors washing over my palate with each subsequent sip.

Overall, I was quite impressed by this beer and am therefore looking forward to what batch #6 has to offer… Rating: 8/10

20121121_214023Good Gourd

After being reminded of the high level of brewing talent of the 110k+OT I chose to wait to open the next beer in this trio i.e. Good Gourd for the following reason. When I first tried pumpkin ales a few years ago I really liked them, but over the past couple years I’ve slowly become less and less enthusiastic about drinking them during the Fall months (when they’re traditionally imbibed). Therefore, in order to appreciate Cigar City Brewing’s take on an imperial pumpkin ale I waited until the night before Thanksgiving to crack open and share the 750ml bottle with my brothers.

As is common with many pumpkin ales, this beer poured reddish orange in color with minimal head, and moderate carbonation with big bubbles around the top of the beer. At 8.5% abv it left dots of lacing on my New Belgium Brewing Co. glass, and as expected nice alcohol legs cascaded down the glass as I swirled the beer to release its aromas. Its cloudy body at times made it difficult to see how much carbonation was present in the beer, but small bubbles were visible when I tilted the glass while holding it up to the light to admire the beer’s appearance.

Upon my first whiff the first words that came to mind were “pumpkie pie!”. I could smell the graham cracker crust, sweet pumpkin, cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg,  and a hint toffee. All of which made for a spicy yet balanced aroma. The taste was similar to aroma, though the spices came more to the forefront. Especially the all spice which peaked in the finish along with the cinnamon and blended with the pumpkin sweetness upfront. In my tasting notes (typed while drinking this beer) I remarked that Good Gourd had a balanced aftertaste that reminded me of spicy pumpkin pie filling. Next, some sips were spicier than others and at one point concerned me to the point of being reminiscent of a pumpkin scented candle. In other words, the spices added an a slightly astringent earthiness that detracted from my enjoyment of the pumpkin and malt sweetness. In addition, at times the pumpkin tasted like pie filling or puree i.e. it did not taste as fresh as the spices did. Though I must note that despite certain sips giving me cause for concern I did enjoy the overall drinking experience.

This imperial pumpkin ale was medium bodied, and despite some alcohol being detected in the taste was overall pretty drinkable. For me the spices never became overwhelming, but I could see others thinking the all spice and cinnamon were too strong because the spiciness built up and lingered at the back of my palate as I sipped more. Next, due to the fact that there’s a fair amount of imperial pumpkin ales on the market nowadays I compared Good Gourd to other imperial pumpkin ales that I’ve tried. In my opinion it fit in with the good ones that I’d try again if the opportunity presented itself (remember I don’t seek them out as often as I used to). Also, the candle sensation and slight earthiness in the finish of some sips did prevent it from being a favorite or go to imperial pumpkin ale….”still a well executed beer, just a little rough around the edges.” Rating: 7/10

20121202_220845Big Sound Scotch Ale

The third and final beer of this trio of full flavored / “big” beers was one I had tried and enjoyed in the past. As a scotch ale / wee heavy clocking in at 9% abv and stylistically featuring a robust malt character; Big Sound was a perfect December night cap beer. It poured an attractive really deep dark red to brown color with a thin layer of off white head that quickly dissipated to a ring around the edges of the beer, and left alcohol legs and some lacing on my glass.

Aromas of toffee, dark fruit, caramel, cherries, and a touch of semisweet chocolate greeted my nose with each whiff, which to me indicated that I was in for a full flavored and palate pleasing beer. Big Sound’s flavor profile was  to me an intensified version of the aroma and a great blend of flavors commonly found in scotch ales. Upfront my palate was met with dark fruits, dark cherries, toffee, and caramel. At mid palate I was able to discern which fruits I was tasting; the cherry notes had a slight tartness to them and there was nice fig and date sweetness as well. Once the beer warmed up the toffee notes took on a slight nuttiness, the fruits became brighter tasting (more apparent), and hints of chocolate weaved their way through the rest of the flavor profile. In fact the chocolate notes helped me appreciate the beer’s complexity.

Despite being a malt forward beer Big Sound was not too sweet, had a semi dry finish, and its alcohol content was hidden quite well. Secondly, it was on the higher end of medium bodied and had the right amount of carbonation to aid the drinkability of this full flavored beer. Lastly, I should note that while the winter is popularly seen by American craft beer drinkers as “stout season”; scotch ales are also great to fight the colder weather (Fall/Winter) chill. To me Big Sound is not only spot on for its style, but its complex and robust flavor profile are exactly what I like in a scotch ale / wee heavy. Rating: 8.5/10

Cheers to Joey and Jen Redner, Wayne Wambles, and the entire Cigar City Brewing Co. team!! I look forward to reviewing more of your great beers in the future.

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About The Brewed Palate - Barry

NJ (formerly NYC) based home brewer and craft beer enthusiast sharing his brewing and imbibing adventures on thebrewedpalate.com. "Spreading the messages of craft beer one palate at a time."
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One Response to Hops, Malts, Gourds…Cigar City Brewing Does It All

  1. Pingback: The Brew Palate Update 12/11/12 | The Brewed Palate

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