Craft Brew of the Week - Week 5, USF

I will be profiling a quality craft brew each week prior to the game, one that fits with the theme for the week, because beer and game day are highly complementary. Please don't ‘rec' this post, as I would like them to roll off the front page each week.

My criteria for this list are:

A) use a combination of foreign and domestic beers that are generally available this time of year
2) only high quality beer
D) beers from a variety of U.S. regions for domestics
∆Burke) present a variety of styles, with attention to the season, and do both classic styles and offbeat beers
Homer) in general, bigger beers for bigger games

I will continue to describe how the components of beer create flavor this week. This week is part three, and we will look at how hops add to the flavor profile.

Let's do this thing.

Sept 29 - South Florida 6:00 p.m. -

The Brewery: Cigar City Brewing

Selected Beer: Oak-Aged Jai Alai India Pale Ale

This week, I've selected a wood-aged beer, because FSU should take USF to the woodshed. We haven't forgotten 2009, and I expect our secondary to lay the wood on USF receivers, if USF's QB can even find them. OK, enough with that. I selected this IPA because it fits nicely with the game time, the slightly cooler weather across the country, my little lecture series on beer flavors, and is one of the better/well-known brews from Cigar City. I hope that you can find them in time for the game.

Cigar City is a brewery out of Tampa that is just a few years old. They have a number of beers that are exemplary offerings, and seem to be committed to creative recipes and brewing high-quality beers first, and expanding their distribution second. That said, they are generally only available in Florida, particularly on the southern Gulf Coast (the West Coast), and also in NYC. This is probably the only game where I will feature a smaller regional brewery, but since the game is not far from home and FSU looks to travel very well, I think it is OK this week. Bonus: Serious beer aficionados might parlay this weekend into a trip to Peg's Cantina & Brewpub in St. Pete, a small batch brewery who reportedly sell outstanding beers in-house. A quick note on hop flavors...

On Brewing and Hops (yet another small treatise):

This week we will cover hops and how hops contribute flavor. A good hop-forward beer will balance other ingredients against the hops, but showcase the varieties used. Hops are the flower of the hop plant. They are highly aromatic and contain acids that cause bitterness in beer when boiled in wort, and can be added during and/or after boiling. The longer hops boil, the fewer aromas they contribute, but the more bitterness they impart. Hops can be added over three time periods: early in the boil (bittering hops), late in the boil (aroma hops), and after the boil in fermentation (dry hops, which add aroma and flavor, but no bitterness). Hops have a wide range of aromas and bitterness levels depending on the variety.

When you drink a beer, if you think about the levels of aroma and bitterness, you might be able to determine roughly what the hops were intended to bring to the flavor of the beer. A beer that is bitter without much hop aroma (think stout) probably had hops added early but not late during boiling, and are intended to provide backbone to the other profiled flavors. A beer with lots of hop aroma and bitterness (think IPA) will have hops added at multiple stages and is intended to display the character of the featured hops. Below is a nice chart from the book Brewing Classic Styles, displaying the typical aromatic/flavor character of a number of hop varieties.



On Wood Aged Beers (more blah blah blah):

The idea for aging beer on wood is based in history. Beer was often stored and shipped in barrels, or casks, for centuries before more modern methods of storage, fermentation, and aging came along. Storing a beer in a cask will cause the beer to take on flavors from the cask itself, as the alcohol in beer encourages extraction of flavors. The longer it is stored, the more the beer will take on the smell and taste of the wood. Wood aging lends flavors that work well with many styles and can complement both hops and malts quite well. It has become quite popular for craft brewers to age their beers on different types of wood that complement the flavor profile of the beer, either by traditional methods of storing in a cask, or by introducing and soaking wood chips in the beer. Another popular approach is aging beer on wood that previously stored bourbon or other spirits, which impart the flavor of that particular drink. Perhaps we'll profile a bourbon barrel-aged beer later in the season.

When you drink a wood-aged beer, see if you can distinguish what the brewer was trying to accomplish - is the wood flavor strong and up-front, or more subdued, more of a background note?

Now that we've covered the basics on hops and wood aging, and described them in beer drinking, let's put it all together and game plan this week's beer:

On to our game day brew:

IPAs are big on hops. They are by far the most hop-forward beers available, and take some getting used to if you haven't tried them before, because they are quite bitter. They are also extremely aromatic. Citrus, pine, floral, and/or earthy smells fill up your nostrils as you drink this style. Heavier hopped IPAs will also have a smoother mouthfeel than lighter beers because of a contribution of hop oils to the beer.

The Jai Alai has a lot going on. The nose is full of oak, and the hops add earthy, woody, and slight citrus scents. It pours a cloudy red-gold color and has a fairly dense and lasting head. When you drink it, caramel and oak dominate, but pine and citrus from the hops also shine through. The hop character is stronger than a pale ale, but not as big as many Imperial IPAs. It is a bitter, well balanced brew that certainly profiles the white oak it is aged on.

Alternate Brews - The brewery has a ton of delicious beers. If you are in Tampa this weekend, search out their tap room or find a local source. The Marshal Zhukov, an Imperial Stout and the Good Gourd, a pumpkin ale, are seasonal brews which are currently available. Though not in season right now, if you can get your hands on the Humidor Jai Alai, the cedar-aged version of the Jai Alai IPA, I say try it - it is one of the better wood-aged IPAs I've had. The Big Sound Scotch and Tocobaga Red Ale are both also worth a try.
If you are out of Cigar City's distribution area, and you want to try a wood aged IPA, I suggest one of the same beers I recommended last week, the Oak Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA. Also, Two Brothers makes a delicious lighter IPA called Resistance, aged on French Oak. The Great Divide Rumble and New Holland Oak-Aged Mad Hatter also offerings from breweries I really enjoy, but I have not tried them.

What I'll (probably) Be Drinking Saturday: The Jai Alai, some homebrews... and I'll update the rest in the comments thread. I still have some decisions to make.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this beer? What is your favorite wood aged beer? What is your favorite IPA? What is your favorite wood-aged IPA? What will you drink on Saturday?

Previously reviewed brews:

Sept 01 - Murray State 6:00 p.m. (click to review this post)- Stone, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Sept 08 - Savannah State 6:00 p.m. - Lagunitas, A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

Sept 15 - Wake Forest 12:00 p.m. - Green Flash, Saison Diego

Sept 22 - Clemson 8:00 p.m. - Southern Tier, Backburner Barleywine

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