17 January 2013


As I mentioned last week, I managed to sneak in a quick north London pub crawl on my last visit to England. From that I brought away a bottle of Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA. This Florida brewery has been top of my must-try list for a while so I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to grab one of theirs while I could.

I opened the bottle on Christmas morning. Foolishly I'd crammed it into the over-laden fridge sideways, not suspecting bottle-conditioning, so what I got was a rather murky amber affair. First impressions were of a sweet and fruity beer, with that orange-flavoured hard candy effect. As it warmed, however, the full 7.5% ABV came into play and it turned much more full-bodied with a bigger, more complex flavour. There's a burn from both the bitter but not harsh hops and the alcoholic heat. Not a show-stopper, but a perfectly good beer to start the day with.

A week later I had my first beer of 2013 in an Amsterdam hotel room. I'd picked it up the previous day from the shelves in Bierkoning. It came from Pretty Things in Massachusetts: Once Upon A Time 1838 X. As the name suggests, it's an historical recreation of a nineteenth century mild from a Barclay Perkins recipe supplied, obviously, by Ron Pattinson. You can read his account of drinking it here.

I very carefully kept this one upright, but it still tasted quite dreggy to me, a hazy yellow-orange with lots of fizz streaming upwards through the murk. And yet the texture remains smooth, with no significant amount of foam forming. The flavour is sharply bitter to the point of being saison-like with loads of lemon rind and grapefruit. There are some lighter fruit notes behind this: some peach or similar soft stonefruit as well as a blast of heat from the 7.4% ABV. Overall, between the citrus and the alcohol, this beer tasted very modern, and I suppose that's the point.

More from my quick stay in the Netherlands next week.


  1. I didn't realise Bierkoning had bottled of 1838 X Ale. I wonder if they have any left?

    I don't recall the bottles I had being particularly murky. It does look pretty mud-like in that photo.

    Cask-conditioned this beer was an absolute knockout. One of the best beers I drank last year.

  2. They had a fair few of both Xs. I know I was supposed to compare, and I really wanted to, but €15-odd on a 2.8% ABV beer isn't a runner for me.

  3. I love "Jai Alai". The "Humidor Series" variant is awesome.

  4. I must go and have a look tomorrow. I don't think I'll bother with the 1945. It's probably well past its best. But I wouldn't mind another taste of the 1838.

    1. While you're there, Ron: do you know why the label doesn't mention Barclay Perkins by name?