Sud Savant: Cigar City 110K + OT (Batch 4) – Full-bodied and Silky Smooth Brew!

Before really researching this beer I had very little idea of its history, let alone its style. The label gives us nothing other than a cryptic name and information required by certain government agencies. This made the discovery process throughout the review very fascinating! Every review experience was full of truly honest impressions, surprise, and a chance to categorize. Thankfully, you have no such need to be so honest. The full history of 110K + OT (or rather its name) can be found here. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve seen come from an internet forum, until this one involving William Shattner. But I digress… The website description goes even further with the inside joke and reads,

“110K+OT is not for college pukes, white collar sissy boys or mamby-pamby Nancy boys who haven’t done an honest days work in their lives. Nor is this beer for the common man. This beer is for the working man who has arrived. If your work boots are steel toed, come back when they are gold toed! ”

As I said, when beginning this review I had no idea of its style. I did know that it changed annually with every batch, but I had no idea which batch I possessed since I received this bottle in a trade (Thanks Ruy!). Turned out to be Batch #4, an Imperial Amber Ale. But unlike any Amber I’ve ever had.

Aroma 11/12: Whoa! There is a lot going on here and it’s all sweet. Fruit esters are strong and come across in a variety of rich scents: fig, pineapple, apple, and grapefruit. It’s very dark, but with the sting of citrus. More typical malt aromas sit further back, but are just as rich. Caramel is powerful and blends surprisingly well with the fig/prune. There is also a little bit of mustiness and a sneaky alcohol warmth that I feel will play a part further on in the review.

Appearance 3/3: The head is astounding. Excellent in size and retention, it leaves a light khaki colored lace all over the inside of the glass. The color appears brown when sitting on a table, but when held to light gives hints that the fig aromas will be visiting again soon. The colors range from the sludge-like color of prune juice to handsome purples to bright, gem-like magentas. The overall tone is a earthy maroon-magenta and was definitely a surprise to see in a beer this dark.

Flavor 17/20: This is most unusual. It starts with sweet fruits like green apple, minus the tart, and does a short, sudden crescendo into an orange rind and dark fruit backbone. To say that this is an odd combination is an understatement. It’s unique and not unpleasant. There is a caramel note, but it is easily shouted out by the dark fruits, more of which fade in gradually along with a faint booziness, and more green apples. The finish brings forward a lot more warmth, the orange rind, and eventually a bitter that has remained hidden until this time. Unfortunately, the bitter seems to be a byproduct of the fruit and not so much a balancer thereof.

Mouthfeel 5/5: This is one full-bodied and silky smooth brew! The carbonation is far from minimal, but its role is very subdued which is perfect in a big Imperial-style beer like this one. The alcohol warmth in the finish also adds a tickle to the tongue to keep things interesting and far from syrupy. However, with all this sweetness, sticky saliva is unavoidable.

Overall Impression 7/10: No one can claim that this beer is not full of flavor. After doing some research and finding out that this beer is an Imperial American red ale, I give this beer kudos for incorporating flavors I’ve never before seen in this style. I like that kind of innovation. My only gripe is my own fault; I find it too sweet. No doubt this beer, being an “American” version of the style, initially involved a healthy dose of hops. Thankfully, while those are still there in all their citrusy glory, they are not present to balance this beer with resin or pine. Granted, red or amber ales can and should be malt centered, however a great crisp finish is often a hallmark of these styles and this beer lacked it. I would’ve even accepted a moderately crisp finish. However, the alcohol and bitter do not equal “crisp.” They can certainly contribute, they can even help make it dry, but this beer proves that they cannot stand alone.

Total 43/50: What can I say… another beer that I’ve possibly ruined by waiting too long to drink it. In my defense, had it said anything on the label pertaining to style I might have made a more urgent effort to drink it. As it stands, I can hardly believe that this is a red of any kind, let alone an imperial. There are just so damn many flavors in this beer that I would never have expected in a red/amber. Big props to Cigar City for that. I can hardly imagine this beer with even more complexities added by fresh hops, but I can imagine it having more balance. The mouthfeel and the appearance are also deserving of superlatives. Now all I have to do is find a fresh bottle, no matter what style this year brings.

Joel R. Kolander is the Cheif Blogger for Sud Savant, a beer-savoring blog for the rest of us. We’re not here to get plowed. We’re not here because we are world-famous beer critics. We’re here because we enjoy savoring a great beer with even better friends. Sharing great beer is just as amazing as finding it in the first place. Lets share!