Illuminating The Path
Cigar City Brewing

Illuminating The PathIlluminating The Path
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Strong Ale - American
4.03 | pDev: 12.41%
Cigar City Brewing
Florida, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Illuminating The PathIlluminating The Path
Notes: Illuminating the Path is a collaboration with Ecliptic Brewing out of Portland, Oregon. The concept behind this beer was to connect Oregon and Florida, which brought several raw materials to mind. John Harris of Ecliptic and myself decided to use rose hips and marionberries, indigenous to Oregon, plus hibiscus and acai berries from Florida. The recipe for the beer was designed with these ingredients in mind, and then aged in pinot noir barrels from Oregon. The result is dark, with big fruity notes, balanced by vinous wine-like notes. We wanted to balance the concept of beer and wine and believe we have done that successfully.
Reviews: 25 | Ratings: 279 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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vurt from Oregon

3.87/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle purchased sometime back in late-2013/early-2014 at Ecliptic Brewing. Poured into a Fort George Festival of Dark Arts snifter. A stamp on the neck of the bottle tells me this beer was bottled on 10/24/13.

The brewers designed Illuminating The Path to "balance the concept of beer and wine." As I sample this beer tonight, I feel like I don't have the wine knowledge I need to do the beer justice. But I do want to attempt to review this surprising beer, so let's see where this path takes me...

The color is beautiful, a deep reddish brown with gorgeous ruby highlights. The dense head of tan colored foam doesn't last long, and leaves spotty lacing.

Mostly red wine with a moderate oaky sourness. Grape skins. Notes of tart, underripe blackberries, some chocolate, and a floral component I can't pin down. Underneath is a muted, musty vegetal note that's like a jar of kimchi someone left open in a nearby room.

The beer leads off with a sourness that is milder than the nose led me to expect. A burst of sweetness with flavors of dark berries and red grapes follows, but it quickly turns dry, vinous, oaky, and full of puckering tannins. Notes of underripe plums, a bit of sour cherry, and more grapes come forward against a lush backdrop of fruity, high-cacao-percentage dark chocolate. The finish is astringent and drying, with lingering tartness and an underlying chocolate malt sweetness.

The body is medium-full with a silky texture. Carbonation is gentle but lively, with small bubbles. Mild alcohol warmth adds a pleasant glow to the drying finish.

When I tried Ecliptic/Cigar City Illuminating The Path fresh, some 7-odd years ago, I remember it was quite sweet and fruity, with some spice and oak in the background. Time has turned this beer into something less sweet, more tart, more complex, and considerably more tannic. While I didn't expect much when I opened the bottle, I have been pleasantly surprised and intrigued over the past couple hours.

I don't think this beer is finished evolving. I hope I get more chances to try this beer in the years to come, once the pandemic recedes and bottle shares become possible again. That would be truly illuminating.

Mar 14, 2021
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Jadjunk from Georgia

3.94/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brewed in the style of an American Strong Ale, available in limited release 750 ml. bottles.

Poured from a 750ml. bottles to a tulip glass.

(Appearance) Pours a rich caramel brown head of a creamy frothed consistency over a very dark brown, near black body. Retention is very good, and lacing is light and droopy. 4

(Smell) Tangy and tart dark fruit notes, moderate acidity, subtle biscuit malts, caramel malts and cocoa nibs. Potency is moderate. 3.75

(Taste) Dry, tangy vinous fruit notes forward with a subtly sweet and lightly decadent malt syrup backbone. Finishes dry with a nip of white oak tannins. Softly syrupy, residual and tart, very enjoyable. 4

(Mouthfeel) Texture is slick, lightly syrupy, medium sticky, very dry. Carbonation is light, with a mild frothiness and a lightly crisp finish. Body is medium+ for the style, medium/heavy overall. Balance is slightly tangy and acidic over sweet. Alcohol presence is low and there are no off characters. 4

(Overall) A very enjoyable and tangy fruit ale with a bold tartness and an enjoyable drying oak finish. It may not be the finest beer that Cigar City has put out there, but I think it's superb. 4

Cigar City Brewing's
Illuminating The Path (With Ecliptic Brewing)

Jan 02, 2016
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John_M from Oregon

4.3/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Had been sitting on this for roughly a year, and so figured it was time to crack it open.

The beer pours a fairly dark brown color with good head retention and lacing. On the nose, there's a lot going on in this beer, but the pinot noir barrels really takes center stage. I'm not sure I've ever smelled a beer with this level of pinot aroma, and it paired well with the vanilla, light spice, chocolate and sauerkraut (of all things) I picked up in this beer. The flavor profile replicated the nose to some extent, and I thought there was an interesting intermix of chocolate, light vanilla, spice and sour wine flavor. The sour in this wine isn't over the top at all, and was well balanced and countered by the spice, sweet chocolate and fruit I picked up (plums, grape and black cherry). Mouthfeel was fairly full, with a long, fairly smooth finish. The label didn't state what the abv. was in this beer, but I would guess it was something in the 9% to 10% range. Alcohol was very well integrated into the flavor profile, and the so drinkability was quite good.

Very interesting and impressive beer I thought.

Dec 21, 2015
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corby112 from Pennsylvania

4.45/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark chestnut brown, almost black color with plum/mahogany edges and a two finger frothy beige head that very slowly settles into a thick, lasting ring. Great retention for the style and what I assume is a high ABV. Lasts through most of the pour leaving sporadic streaks of soapy lacing in it's wake.

Very inviting, complex nose with a lot going on. Somewhat floral with vinous barrel presence, roasted and sweet malt notes and vinous dark fruit. The Pinot barrel and dark berries really stand out with subtle roast, charred oak and vanilla bean nice integrated into the beer. Not dominated by wine, oak or booze with blueberry, dark raspberry, currant, grape and plum sweetness coming through. I'm not familiar with Marion berry but it has a dark raspberry/blueberry like profile. Still, the floral notes show with a perfume like quality and the complex malt bill notes stand up to the barrel notes. Subtle roast with coffee bean and dark chocolate along with sweeter dessert-like malt notes. Smells excellent with the perfect balance of berries, Pinot barrel and dark malt.

Fuller end of medium body with a strong vinous barrel presence and a boat load of vinous dark berries. Excellent integration of barrel flavors with damp oak, vanilla bean and vinous Pinot/red wine flavor. The sweet red wine notes blend perfectly with the luscious dark berries which are very prominent. Blueberry, blackberry, grape, raisin and plum sweetness countered by a subtle dark malt backbone. Just the perfect amount to balance out all of the sweetness. Not heavy enough to overpower the barrel and fruit flavors but enough to add another layer of flavor and complexity. Subtle roast and smoke with coffee bean, toast, burnt sugar and oatmeal followed by sweeter chocolate malt, caramel and toffee. Really complex and packed with interesting flavor. Not sure what the ABV is but this beer is deceptively drinkable with only subtle heat/warmth in he finish. Wow, a really impressive beer from CCB and Ecliptic.

Nov 23, 2015
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sweemzander from Illinois

4.03/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750mL bottle poured into a snifter.

(A)- Pours very dark; almost black with some reddish highlights. Minimal froth.

(S)- A big nose of the red wine barrel. Plenty of oak and raisin too.

(T)- Lots of dark fruits meets a big red wine berry oak profile. Very jam-like with lots of berries throughout.

(M)- A mellow carbonation level meets a very jam-like sweet profile overall; almost sticky.

(O)- Again, very sweet and jammy. Enjoyable though

Aug 15, 2015
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wordemupg from Canada (AB)

4.36/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Had this one a ways back at mattsanders tasting (from notes)

A has a brown ruby glow when held to the light, short lived thin dark head leaves some polka dots

S black currents, dates, figs, prunes, raisins, maybe some faint strawberry, strange herbal and floral notes, some purple candy maybe? Dark toffee and jam

T a little wood, everything from the nose just kinda smashed together, interesting taste but the nose has the edge

M leaning towards full, a little bitter with some tannin, soft carbonation, spicy finish

O maybe the surprise of the night for me, very original and I can’t really think of something similar

This one was a winner in a strange way for me, something I’ve never heard of and would love to revisit

Jul 22, 2015
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Ilovelampandbeer from New York

4.56/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

89 rating is a joke...such a unique and awesome beer

During certain stages of the sip it reminded me of a barleywine, other stages a sour, others a regular fruit much depth

Wish they would brew this again

Apr 15, 2015
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Phillip380 from Florida

4.1/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It's a little late for a reviews once this beer is over a year old now, but when Wayne (the head Brewers of Cigar City ) says it was on of his favorite beers of the year, you might have wanted to know what it was like. Just sayin. ( although I did have a bottle share of it at Hunahpu day last week and it was still drinking really nice, so go figure.

Mar 20, 2015
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chinchill from South Carolina

3.69/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Large shared bottle.

Flavor: somewhat pronounced wine barrel aging effects hint at brandy or liquor. Sweet with a tart and fruity aftertaste.

Feel: Near syrupy full body

O: Complex and highly distinctive. This spiced, wine-barrel aged, lightly sour, imperial stout is likely to have both advocates and critics.

Dec 11, 2014
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UCLABrewN84 from California

3.46/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle pour at the pre-FWIBF bottle share held at the Adelaide Inn in Paso Robles, CA.

Bottled 10/24/13.

Pours a hazy dark orange-brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is sour with malt, brown sugar, dark fruit, and acidic aromas. Taste is much the same with sour fruit, funk, red wine, and slight cheese flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of acidity on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and dry mouthfeel. Overall, this is an above average beer that is drinkable but has some off flavors that aren't all that pleasant.

Jun 03, 2014
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maximum12 from Minnesota

4.35/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

My second bottle from the El Cat club & the first (Forgotten Island) set the bar insanely high. 750ML bottle split with my wife.

Pour is generous with the carbonation, dark brown with reddish-tinged edges. Smell is teeming with fruit, fruit, & more fruit. I have no idea what most of the alleged fruit on the label are, but that must be what I'm smelling. Surprisingly, no sharpness from the wine barrels. Super sweet.

Illuminating the Path should be called Disguising the Barrel. The wine that vacated the nose has all nine feet in the taste: more wine-like than some wines. Sharpness of the Pinot Noir (my favorite varietal, when I take a rare glass of wine) plays off the sweetness of the base beer & the fruitness. Coming & going are chocolate, vanilla, thoughts of Heidi Klum naked, reams of tannic dryness. Almost as dry as it is fruity, as the barrels suck the moisture from my gums. I'm assuming this is around 5% ABV, because that's how fast it's disappearing.

First few sips left me shruggish, but this grew on me fast as expectations shifted. Lovely barrel, lovely fruits, drinkable as all get out...damn, now I'm really wondering, who was complaining about these El Cat beers? Unique, but better, it's flat-out excellent.

May 03, 2014
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deschutes_fan from California

4.24/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a bit hazy brown-orange, with very light layer of foam.
Smell is fruity with spice notes.
Taste is very complex with cherry-apple-cinnamon at first followed by nice rich oak from the wine barrels.
MouthFeel is nice, body is thick for the style (whatever that is exactly)
Overall an enjoyable and complex beer. Was a bit vexing at first, but grew on me over time. The 2nd glass was definitely the best as my palate was warmed to the complex fruit/spice/oak flavors. I can see this aging well.

Apr 21, 2014
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BMMillsy from Florida

3.83/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from my Catador membership. Finally cracking this open with Beastmaster. Pours dark syrupy brown with a small creamy khaki head. Aroma of oak and tannins, tart and sweet berries, chocolate, vinous notes, vanilla, caramel. Flavor is sweet chocolate covered berries with a big oak presence. Light wine notes with tart and sweet medley if flavors. Toffee vanilla finish, moderately dry oak and nuttiness. Relatively hefty mouthfeel, creamy, with medium carbonation. Soft on the tongue. Very much like a fruited stout. Overall this was much better than I expected. While not my favorite style, it is certainly a beer worth trying. Not one to open on your own, but decent in small servings.

Mar 30, 2014
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mdfb79 from New York

4.08/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From 02/26/14 notes. Had an 8 oz. pour on tap at Bondurants in NYC. Served in a snifter.

a - Pours a deep brown color with two inches of medium tan head moderate carbonation evident. Looks pretty good.

s - Smells of sour red wine, spice, earthy notes, floral notes, sweet dark fruits, oak, and lightly sweet and sour berries. Nice nose, tons of sour red wine and fruits as it warms up.

t - Tastes of sweet dark fruits, berries, sour red wine and dark fruits, oak, tannic, spice, herbal, earthy notes, floral notes, dirt, pepper, light toasted and roasted malts, and light chocolate. Some more dark fruit than the nose and lightly sour; not as much as the nose.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation. No heat and pretty easy to drink.

o - Overall a good beer; pretty interesting. Lots of sour wine and dark fruits come through, especially as it warms up and in the nose. Wouldn't trade a ton for it but would definitely recommend trying it if you see it on tap.

Feb 26, 2014
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4thelvofbeer from Virginia

4.35/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This beer is a sleeper. Looks all dull and brown...even smells a bit funky and weird...but the taste...whoa....awesome. The fruits and the spices are all blended perfectly...this is a really, really good beer. It is so smooth and the wine barrel aging puts it over the top and rounds out a very smooth, superbly balanced beer.

Feb 21, 2014
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GameFreac from Georgia

4.38/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Thanks to cleg for this one.

Appearance: Pours a dark ruby red color with a thick khaki head that dissipates quickly.

Smell: Smell is kinda muted. Once I swirl the glass around the first thing I get is some sour notes. Tart lactic acid, sweet dark fruits - mainly berries and some vinous/wine characters.

Taste - Taste blows the smell out of the water. Super fruity and slightly tart up front. A little chocolate as well. Aftertaste is the wine barrel and slight oak. And it's perfect. Sweet but the slight tartness protects it from being too cloying.

Mouthfeel: Medium but syrupy mouthfeel. Not sure what the abv is but no alcohol in the nose or flavor.

Overall: Just an amazing beer. So unique. One of the best I've had from Cigar City.

Feb 12, 2014
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HuskyinPDX from Washington

4.04/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle opened on 1.4.14
Bottled on 10.24/2013

A - Pours a dark brown with a fine head that bubbles down slowly.

S - Spices, cherry, figs, tart.

T - WIne, oak, cherry, dark fruits.

D - Good carbonation with a heavy body.

O - Lots of wine and oak for such a dark heavy beer. Not sure how I really feel about this one.

Jan 28, 2014
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dar482 from New York

4.44/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

The beer comes in a dark brown color with a purple tinge.

The flavor is quite intense and intriguing. There is chocolate, sweet toffee and caramel. Dark fruit of raisins and dried figs. It has a beautiful forward red wine barrel and oak.

One of the best red wine barrel beers I’ve had.

Jan 24, 2014
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johnnnniee from New Hampshire

3.91/5  rDev -3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle from El Catador
Pours a solid dark brown color with a huge fluffy tan head that for its size dissipates rather quickly. Aromas of brown sugar and molasses offset with a tart non descript berry as well as a bit of a vinous vibe with a hint of vanilla and oak. There is a touch of floral in there as well. At first I thought this might smell a bit lactic, but it seems more like tart berry aromas the more I sniff at it. The flavor is rich dark sugars and bits of chocolate with a huge tart fruity and vinous flavor to counter. Hints of vanilla a bit of oak and a touch of ethanol round out the flavor nicely. Medium to thick body with a light to moderate level of carbonation and a sweet sugary but tart mouthfeel. Interesting brew for sure. The floral component is extremely subtle and I wonder whether it needed to be there at all. Nice thick fruity brew.

Jan 18, 2014
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Alieniloquium from Florida

3.65/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

On tap at the Maple Bacon release. Served in a plastic cup.

Appearance - Deep brown. Khaki collar. Not much else.

Smell - Really complex aroma. Oak and vanilla most prominent. Acidic smelling dark fruits. Red wine. Brown sugar.

Taste - A little tart. Chocolate notes. Red wine. Lots of vanilla. Dark fruits. Intense flavors. Oaky finish.

Mouthfeel - Heavy. Slightly tart. Boozy. Tough to drink.

Overall - I'm really torn here. I have a different opinion with each sip. Sometimes it's fascinating, sometimes it's harsh.

Jan 11, 2014
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Mikeypnh from New Hampshire

3.96/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Thanks to GatorLCA for the bottle. Poured into a Worthy Burger tulip glass.

Appearance: Dark brown, one finger mocha head that disappears somewhat quickly.

Smell: Strong. Lots of chocolate, wine, some fruit. Smelling some oak in there, too. Expecting this one to have a lot of flavor.

Taste : Lots of dark roasted berries up front, just a tad sweet. Chocolate. Wine aftertaste. Tasting a bit nutty, raisins, figs? Follows the nose well. Not a lot of heat.

Mouthfeel. Very slick. Creamy, not too thick, but enough to make it a sipper for me.

Overall: Not what I was expecting when I traded for it. Thought this would be more sour. This is a nice beer, though. Very flavorful and everything seems to mesh well.

Dec 27, 2013
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mverity from Florida

4.58/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle share at Proof courtesy of scotchzi. Opaque deep brown with caramel colored head. Thick collar with some swirls of the caramel head across the surface. Aroma is of red wine, dark berries (raspberry), and some yeast funk. Taste is crazy delicious. Exactly like the aroma and so much more! The red wine and deep fruit really shine! Nice medium carbonation and medium body as well. Aftertaste is of that wine/berry blend that works so well. Awesome brew!

Dec 19, 2013
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ThickNStout from Georgia

4.19/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

750mL bottle acquired through the El Catador club. 25.00. Bottled 10/24/13. Served in a Cigar City snifter.

Pours deep brown with a finger and a half khaki head. A modest ring of bubbles remain and leaves tiny ocassional clumps of lace.

Smells of chocolate, red berries, oak and wine. Nice.

Very interesting blend of flavors. Rich chocolate, plums, berries, nutty, raisins, oaky vanilla, tawny port, wine and a healthy shot of alcohol. Serious waves of flavor.

Creamy, medium heavy feel with light carbonation. Chocolate and port finish.

A really unique and quite tasty brew. Nice interplay of fruit, wine barrel and beer. I should have bought more.

Nov 27, 2013
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

3.86/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

heck of an interesting beer right here. pouring a purple tinted brown color with a lot of cloudiness and a short tan head with fine retention. I smell a lot in here, especially the pinot noir barrels it was aged in, fruity there for sure. I also smell blueberries, although they aren't present, that's the fruit I get, although I am admittedly not particularly familiar with the berries in this beer. I taste a lot of chocolate in the finish, a very interesting combination with the tart fruit. its quite acidic and tannic, likely from the influence of the wine barrel, but it compliments the sweetness. darker than expected malt bill with some toasty roasty notes, but still light enough to let the fruit shine. honestly this one was a little odd for me. no doubting the quality, but the mix of flavors was just foreign and strange to me, and reduced its drinkability as a result. smooth feel though despite the acid, and an enjoyable brew overall, but not one I am in a hurry to drink again. i would be curious to see how this ages...

Nov 20, 2013
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velcrogrip from Florida

4.64/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown with medium tan head. Dark but some light gets through.

Smells of red wine. Sweet.

Taste matches the smell with a tad of sourness. Lots of wine flavor.

Mouthfeel - velvety, low to medium carbonation.

Overall - nice flavor, love the wine's effect on aroma. Solid ale.

Nov 03, 2013
Illuminating The Path from Cigar City Brewing
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 279 ratings