I got there as early as I could, pulling in just after 2PM. The place was already packed. The Tap House combines the best of beer worlds, offering a comfortable setting in a nice new building with lots of exotic beers on tap while still holding a lot of the charm and ease of "Ye Ol Pub". The barmades are gorgeous, the beer is both fresh and cold and they have a snack menu including sausages and sandwiches for those who wish to soak up their brew in food.
The Cigar City guys put on a good show too. They staggered the tappings so that everyone gets to try a bit of each beer as long as you were willing to sit. At $6/glass, this isn't cheap beer and you have to really long strong, pungent brews to enjoy this as much as I did. For the most discerning of tastes, they offer both cask and tap versions of many of their brews. Some have a preference, some are just here for good beer. I'm one of the latter.
From the get-go, I was surrounded by beer lovers who gladly shared their experiences both at this and previous beer gatherings. They made recommendations, they made conversation and everyone was genuinely in love with the moment. That's a sign of good beer friends, and I was thankful to have them.
I started out with the Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale. I loved maduro-wrapped cigars, so I knew a lot of what I was getting into. The beer was surprisingly creamy, I'm guessing as a product of the eatmeal. It had a starchy nose and a bit bitter sip, but it was pleasant and reminded me of the cigars of the same name. As far as brown ales go, this was a stronger example than I expected but was a good start.
For the second tapping, I had a glass of the Jai Alai IPA (India Pale Ale). This was a sweet and fragrant beer. When I smelled the rim of the glass, pronounced rosemary and sage filled the air. It was really something else. The taste was sweet with light, as an Ale should be. None of the beers offered were what I'd call a "light beer", but of the strong tastes offered, this was the lightest and one of the better overall beers.
Third, I had the "Highlite", another version of the IPA. The taste was much the same, though I noticed more foam and a slightly stronger nose to this one. A good taste, very soothing and probably my favorite brew of the day.
The ORIBA, Oatmeal Rye Indian Brown Ale, was my least favorite choice. This wasn't something I liked at all, as it was actually too bitter, too strong and had an almost ashy resonance to it. They serve it in 4 oz. half-servings, and it's a good thing they did. Having a whole glass of this very strong beer would have knocked off the whole experience and that wouldn't have been fair to the rest of the selections.
The Bolita Brown was the last beer I had as I was running out the door for the next event. It was a good Brown Ale, complete with that coffee-and-cream after taste that I look forward to. This went down smooth and had a magnificent smell to it. I rate this with the first IPA for overall quality in taste, smell and presentation.
I ended up leaving at 4:15, just in time to have several others quarrel over my bar stool in the still-packed ale house. Total price for my beers was just over $20 and I left feeling satisfied and happy, though not drunk or worn out like cheaper beers usually make me.
Beer events like this come and go, but it's good to see the Cigar City guys making such a good showing. I'll be stopping by their brewery in the coming weeks to pick up some bottles of the IPA and the Bolita, as these have a permanent place in my heart and in my fridge.