***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or comments***
Enjoyed on 2/22/2011
Brewery: Cigar City Brewing LLC
Location: Tampa, FL
Beer: Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale
Presentation: 750 ml – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped
Style: Double Nut Brown Ale
Recommended Serving Temp: 45 degrees
Bolita was a type of lottery popular with the working class citizens of the Ybor City district of Tampa. Bolita means, ’little ball’ but profits from the illegal (and often rigged) game were anything but little. In the 1920’s Tampa native Charlie Wall was the undisputed kingpin of the Bolita racket.
Our Bolita is a Double Northern English-style brown ale that has a complex malt forward character with notes of chocolate, toffee and hints of roasted nuts in the finish. Bolita pairs well with Baklava, Big Band Music, Cool Evenings and robust cigars.
Food Pairings: Pork, brownies
Cheese Pairings: Camembert, Asiago
Music Pairing: Sun Ra
Beer Advocate: A- (4.09)
Rate Beer: 98 (3.76)
I have been saying for a while now that The Bruery and Cigar City are the two most exciting new breweries to open in the past 5 years. In the case of The Bruery, I have relatively strong access to their beers and can speak with experience. With CCB, I am forced to go completely by word of mouth, publications and ratebeer/beeradvocate ratings…until now. Thanks to the overwhelming kindness and social grace of Jess and DSR, the better 2/3 of Beer Blotter, I was gifted with this bottle after they toured NYC in 2009. I had been waiting for a special occasion to open it. When I received a god-awful bill from a recent ER visit I made, I decided that I’d substitute “special occasion” with “extreme desire to escape reality”. Let’s see if they live up to the hype.
Just after opening the bottle, at a very cold temperature mind you, a bit of foam formed and began to slowly creep over the rim of the bottle. Out of fear of losing some of this rare brew to the table top, I quickly filled my snifter. A lively head rose up but I was able to get a good pour and not overflow the vessel. Bottle-conditioning success!
The fluid itself is a gorgeous mahogany color, and when held directly to the light it appears slightly toward a very dark, murky amber. Light does not pass through and though it is evident that the carbonation is strong, it is nearly impossible to see any rising effervescence.
The head is tan in color and fairly light in density. It falls somewhat quickly from its initial heights but leaves behind immense globs of lace, eventually settling into a soft, brownish-tan wisp. As I revel in the appearance, from a top view, I’m reminded of being on a beach, right at the point in which the crashing waves dwindle and recede. A froth of salty water resting upon dark, drenched sand, awaiting the next gravity fed barrage of the mighty sea. If I could shrink myself down and anxiously submerge my feet in these cool sands, I would not hesitate.
The scent is surprisingly vinous and estery…almost tart. It takes a deep waft and some searching to find the nuts and malts beneath, but they are there. The full experience in the nose – that being the combination of the before mentioned attributes – is actually really enjoyable, though my first impression is that this was not intended by the brewers. Though, upon further reflection, this is a Cigar City beer and there is no doubt that, in its current state, this would pair effortlessly with a cigar. Even still, as this is my first and only experience with this beer, I ponder the role that travel and age may play here. It may require a trip to the Southeast to truly know.
Had the label come out and told me that this beer was aged in wood I would feel much better about everything, but really, if it isn’t, and this isn’t the intended scent, maybe it should be because it’s amazing! It’s full of cherry notes and brown sugar, strawberries and rhubarb, pie crust and sugar cookies filled with jam.
Nuts and chocolate, again, can be found, but much deeper than the rest. The moment that they are found, it all comes together in a holiday-like harmony that really sends me to another place and time. It’s a magical experience. Very, very much unlike most brown ales, there is no subtlety to the nose. It bursts out of the glass like an overly perfumed grandmother. In this case, I want to rest my shoulder on granny all evening long.
The MF is on the high side with respect to carbonation, which slightly inhibits my ability to gauge anything in this category. Through many sips I determine that it’s above average in body but not overly cloying or oily. It’s spot on for a double brown ale.
It’s in the flavor that the nuts and chocolatey, roasted malt characteristics truly shine, but that only really holds true when the beer is colder. In that stage the flavor is much reminiscent of Nutella. When you couple that with the fruity nose, well, quite literally… it’s like enjoying a Nutella dipped strawberry, which, let me tell you, is simply stupendous!
The grains do not present any acridity or chalkiness and it all goes down smooth and sweet. As the beer warms the experience has much less of a yin and yang effect and the flavors seems to devolve more into what was experienced with the surface scents. The maltiness is pressed to the aftertaste and it all transitions into something very Belgian in nature. If there was ever a time that I’d bet wood was involved in the production of this beer it would be now. Strawberry bubblegum screams the loudest, but a woody, earthy flavor rests below. That may be my palate misinterpreting the nuts since they are rare in this context. The booze really brightens up here and plays yet another role in my (spiked?) barrel theory.
Amidst all this seeming mayhem, there is not an ounce of me that is disenchanted by any of it. In fact, I can’t get enough. It’s a chameleon of a beer. What strange shade will I see the next time I blink?
The aftertaste is an afterthought for most of my time with this beer. It’s all sweet and just slightly acidic, but with warmth there is a lasting, cocoa powder graininess that gives the impression of a chalky dryness that isn’t actually there. This is probably the worst part of the entire experience of Bolita Brown but that is a bit of a misnomer because the whole experience is grande. There is no doubt that I want to continue to the next sip.
It’s been a long time coming, this foray into the realm of Cigar City, and whether I “compromised” the product or not, I really enjoyed my time with it. I have great hopes that the time will soon come that I have full access to CCB’s product line.
If you like Cigar City Bolita Brown, you should try…
Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale; Smuttynose Brewing’s Old Brown Dog Ale; Lazy Magnolia Brewing’s Southern Pecan
Disclaimer: This beer was purchased by Beer Blotter with our own hard-earned money, and aged to perfection by yours truly.