Beer Review: Cigar City Bourbon Barrel Bolita Double Nut Brown Ale

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[image-1]Once again, I sat down with Cigar City's head brewer Wayne Wambles and we drank, talked, lived, and breathed beer. He poured Bourbon Bolita (bottle 178 of 221) into a Cigar City snifter with care. The dark chocolate brown magnificence supports an inch of tan bubbles that quickly flee to the snifter's edges. Yet the full density of the frothy head comes back to life when the glass is swirled. Like magic.

When I put my nose to the glass, the brew smells like nutty brown daddy booze, with just a touch of vanilla. The signature scent of straight bourbon whiskey is incredibly assertive, but there is a kind of cleanliness present that allows Bolita's Northern English grain character to shine through.

With so much Maker's Mark in the nose, I expected the 9% ABV and whiskey goodness to bring out the strong beer chills. Although the whiskey barrel treatment imparts a very distinct flavor, it's done with such precision that the booze doesn't dominate the base style of the beer that went into the barrel. Flavors are incredibly balanced - the nutty brown ale, the wood, the whiskey, and the roasty, smooth finish. According to Wayne, "it drinks like a dream." Which is totally true. Although the bottle was 2 days away from maturity, it was absolute perfection.

So where does one procure such an exquisite bottle of elusive, historical, local beer? Thursday at Whole Foods from 3-5pm, you can get bottles of rare Cigar City brew. Available for sale - multiple cases of Big Sound Scotch Ale, 2 cases of 110K India Russian Imperial Stout, and 1 case of Bourbon Barrel Bolita.

Coming soon from Cigar City - Campeador, a curious blend of 60% Bolita and 40% Big Sound Scotch Ale, aged in bourbon barrels for 3 months. Just freshly packaged, the mixed concoction will be ready in two weeks, around June 30th. This beer will only be available at Knightly Spirits in Orlando and at the Cigar City tasting room, which recently opened to the public so that we can all see where the beer magic happens and purchase some of it to take home.

Also available exclusively in the tasting room starting Thursday - Flora, Cigar City's cedar aged Jai Alai IPA infused with heather and lavender. Wayne says it's, "wood, flowers, IPA, and more flowers," with a healthy dose of citrus from kettle hops and dry hopping.

If all this information doesn't have you jumping around the room, you simply don't know what's good. The Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room and Beer Shrine is open Monday through Friday from 11am until 5pm.

Cigar City Brewing is relentless; they refuse to stop making ridiculously great beer. RateBeer recognizes their Hunaphus Imperial Stout as one of the world's ten best Imperial Stouts, and Big Sound Scotch Ale ranks among the top ten of its style. Then there's Bolita Double Nut Brown Ale, which ranks #1 in the brown ale category on RateBeer - it's the best brown ale currently produced on the planet as judged by a massive group of very critical beer nerds. Yep, in our own backyard, folks. This is truly beer history in the making.

The side of Bolita bottles reads:

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.

Sounds great. Now check out this variation — Bourbon Barrel Bolita. It begins with Cigar City's Bolita Double Nut Brown. After three weeks of fermentation, the brew is transferred to Maker's Mark barrels. Three months later, it hits the bottling line, where each bottle is filled by hand and then individually numbered. Since this batch of Bourbon Bolita only yielded 221 bottles, it is a pricey beer, but it's completely worth it.

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