Aroma: Saison yeast exhibiting subtle bananas. Loads of tropical fruit and pineapple. Fresh sourdough bread. Herbs; thyme and oregano.
Appearance: Another one drunk from a hotel Styrofoam cup. I assume it is black, prescriptionsite but I can’t see it through the voluminous tan foam.
Flavor: Pineapple and herbs; the same thyme and oregano from the aroma. Light green banana flavors. Fruitiness is intense. Leans to the sweet side of the saison spectrum. Bitterness is low and barely balances. Very gentle roastiness gives it a bit of a boost. Subtle coffee roast flavors. Lightly spicy hops with hints of black pepper in the finish. Finish gives a last bite of bitter at the back of the tongue and lingers on fruit, herbs, and roasted coffee.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: Generally I liked this, though I liked it better at the start of the bottle than at the end. It wore a little thin over time. I wish it were a little drier and a little bitterer. The sweetness at times came off like fruit cocktail syrup. I appreciate the delicateness of the roast; not overwhelming, still lets the saison character come through.
Cigar City Brewing Co. of Tampa, Florida is one of those breweries that was able to achieve a kind of cult status within a few months of opening. They are particularly well known for their Humidor Series beers, big, bold-flavored beers aged on cedar from cigar humidors. I have had the pleasure of trying their cedar-aged IPA and it was indeed a treat; perhaps one of the best IPAs I have tasted.
Finding myself in Boca Raton with some time to kill I decided to seek me out some Cigar City beers. Mind you, I didn’t have a car. The closest liquor store to my hotel was a couple of miles away. But what the heck, I love to walk and the exercise would do me good. So walk I did. An hour and a quarter later I was back at my hotel with a big bottle of Papaya IPA, the brewery’s acclaimed Jai-alai IPA with dried papaya added during conditioning. It sounded intriguing. Here’s my notes:
Cigar City Brewing Co., Tampa, Florida
Style: American IPA with papaya
Serving Style: 750 ml. Bottle
Aroma: Flowers and tropical fruit. The papaya aroma is huge. Soft graham-cracker malt adds a sweet undertone. It’s like tropical fruit lifesavers. This beer smells good.
Appearance: Appeared to be amber and when I poured it, but I drank it from a hotel Styrofoam cup so it’s hard to say. Voluminous tan foam that just won’t settle. I wish it would. That’s the cup’s fault, not the beer’s fault.
Flavor: Papaya is much less pronounced in the flavor than in the aroma. That’s a bit disappointing. Fairly bracing bitterness, but backed up by a big base of sweet, graham-cracker malt. It comes off almost sugary. Light floral notes – or is that those tropical fruit lifesavers – hang in the background and linger into the finish. Otherwise a mélange of citrus, pine, and spice. Bitterness hangs on after the swallow. Pronounced papaya comes in long after the swallow and lingers a very long time.
Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation.
Overall: It’s complex, offering a different sensation with each sip, but in the end I have to say that I didn’t really care for it. It seems at first to be just a double IPA, and not the best example of one either. Then these odd floral/tropical fruit flavors come in, layered on top of the large amount of hops. It really is like tropical fruit lifesavers. The malt comes off a bit too syrupy, like the syrup from a can of tropical fruit cocktail. It was worth a try, but I wouldn’t buy it again.
Wednesday night was all about local beer and cheese at the St. Paul Cooks of Crocus Hill. I paired up with James Norton and Becca Dilley, the folks behind The Heavy Table and authors of The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin, to bring together what are arguably the two best products to come out of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Guests were welcomed with a glass of Schell’s Pils to start the evening off. Once everyone was seated, we got down to business. As we got our introductions out of the way, Becca was wielding a skillet to heat up the first cheese, Brun Uusto from Brunkow Cheese of Darlington, Wisconsin. This munch-worthy American twist on the Finnish Juustoleipa-style cheese is buttery, salty, mild, and a bit oily. Light caramelized flavors made it a great match for Proper, a malt-forward English Bitter from Furthermore Beer in Spring Green, Wisconsin.
My second favorite pairing of the night was Surly Bender with Upland’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese. This is a fantastic cheese to begin with. It’s won the equivalent of Best of Show at the American Cheese Society three times. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is dry and nutty with gentle grassy background flavors that make for a “heavenly chorus” pairing with Surly’s nutty oatmeal brown ale. Both have big flavors, but they are evenly matched with one another. The nuttiness of one speaks to the nuttiness of the other. The beer and cheese together amplify some floral notes that are absent when tasted separately. You really should rush out and try this combination.
The pairing that really made my mind explode was Matacabras from Dave’s BrewFarm with Meadowlark, a cloth-bound, cave-aged cheddar from Pastureland in Goodhue, Minnesota. This is one unusual cheddar. The cave-aging lends it loads of funky, mushroomy funk that you wouldn’t normally associate with cheddar cheese. These melded seamlessly with the funky Belgian yeast flavors in the beer. Matacabras leans to the sweet side and drips caramel and dark fruit. These flavors offered a wondrous counterbalance to the deep, umami flavors of the cheese.
Although not the official pairing, Matacabras also went beautifully with the next cheese, Amablu, a cave-aged blue cheese from Faribault Dairy. Think blue cheese with fig puree. Fantastic. The actual pairing to this cheese was SummitHorizon Red. This beer’s slight caramel residual sweetness counters the sharpness of the blue cheese while dirty, grassy Horizon hops pick up the tangy moldiness.
The “dessert” pairing was also very nice; Crave BrothersMascarpone with Tyranena’s bourbon-barrel aged Rocky’s Revenge. The cheese has a creamy sweetness of its own that was amplified by the rich vanilla and whisky flavors of this sweet-leaning beer. While full flavored, Rocky’s Revenge is not so heavy as to overpower this fairly lightweight cheese. The orange biscuits served with the cheese sent the whole ensemble over the top.
Gold Sovereign Ale, the 6th beer in Summit’s Unchained Series, made a great match for Hook’s 7-Year Cheddar from Hook’s Cheese Company of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. The beer is hoppy and bitter bit has enough backing sweetness to pick up the creamy sweetness of the cheese. With wine they say, “if it grows together, it goes together.” The same can be said of beer. Cheddar cheese and English India Pale Ale are a can’t miss combination.
I can’t wait to do this class again; sometime, somewhere. In the mean time I may just have to pick up some of these cheeses and beers to re-experience the pairings on my own.