Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA Can, $ 10.99 a six-pack The backstory When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers qualified for this year’s Super Bowl, attention immediately turned to the fact that the quarterback Field Tom Brady, love it or hate it, will be playing his tenth edition of the great game. But perhaps equally noteworthy is the fact that the championship game, scheduled for this Sunday, will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, home to Brady’s team. Never before in the history of the Super Bowl has such a fluke occurred: the venue is chosen years in advance, without thinking about which teams may end up competing.
All of which means we need a Tampa beer to toast the occasion. And Jai Alai IPA is the perfect candidate. First, it’s the flagship beer of Cigar City Brewing, a brewery founded by fifth-generation Floridian Joey Redner in 2007. And indeed, Cigar City is all about Tampa – the brewery’s name refers to the rich history of influence Cuban city as a cigar-making center more than a century ago. And many of Cigar City’s beers play on Florida themes. There’s the Guayabera, a citra pale ale that refers to the popular Cuban-style shirt that is still a favorite of many Floridians. There’s also Florida Man, an Indian double beer that honors, well, the Florida man, an ubiquitous creature who always ends up in the strangest situations (for example, accidentally driving his vehicle into the condo pool). And then there’s Jai Alai IPA, who talks about the place that jai-alai, an ultra-fast game of Basque origin that is like racquetball on steroids, has played in Florida history. Sadly, the last jai-alai (or fronton) venue in Tampa closed years ago, although the game is still played in other parts of the state and is making a comeback. But what makes Jai Alai IPA special goes beyond its connection to a certainly unknown sport. It has to do with the fact that it is an IPA that doesn’t carry bitterness too far, says Cigar City Brewing brand manager Neil Callaghan. The style, especially in its West Coast version, had become known for its intense hop flavor. But Cigar City has been part of a wave of breweries, especially on the East Coast, to promote a more accessible version. Callaghan calls Jai Alai “a tropical beer for a tropical setting,” and highlights its refreshing quality. Our thoughts about it We love West Coast IPAs, but sometimes we just want to give our palate a break. And that’s what Jai Alai is all about. The beer has a delicious citrus flavor, which is probably not by accident (Florida is big on oranges after all). But it also has character and hints of depth – this isn’t your commercial mass-brewed beer. Overall, a better alternative than Bud for drinking at the Super Bowl. How to Enjoy It We could have a couple of these with nothing more than a few chips or pretzels. But Callaghan says Jai Alai pairs well with a variety of spicy foods, from shrimp tacos to slightly spicy chicken wings. Could beer pair well with another Brady victory in the Super Bowl? You will have to wait until Sunday to find out.