Illuminating The Path
Cigar City Brewing

Illuminating The PathIlluminating The Path
Beer Geek Stats | Print Shelf Talker
Cigar City Brewing
Florida, United States
American Strong Ale
3.98 | pDev: 12.56%
Mar 14, 2021
Oct 31, 2013
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.
Recent ratings and reviews. | Log in to view more ratings + sorting options.
Photo of vurt
Reviewed by vurt from Oregon

3.85/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | 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 has finished evolving. I hope I get more chances to try this again in the years to come, once the pandemic recedes and bottle shares become possible again. That would be truly illuminating.
Mar 14, 2021
Rated: 3.75 by teamwiggum from Wisconsin

May 16, 2019
Rated: 4.16 by ygtbsm94 from Utah

Jan 31, 2017
Rated: 4.28 by joemochas from Florida

Mar 21, 2016
Rated: 3.25 by rspauldi from Texas

Feb 10, 2016
Photo of Jadjunk
Reviewed by Jadjunk from Georgia

3.94/5  rDev -1%
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
Photo of John_M
Reviewed by John_M from Washington

4.3/5  rDev +8%
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
Photo of corby112
Reviewed by corby112 from Pennsylvania

4.45/5  rDev +11.8%
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
Rated: 3.56 by Raziel313 from California

Oct 20, 2015
Photo of sweemzander
Reviewed by sweemzander from Illinois

4.03/5  rDev +1.3%
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
Rated: 4.25 by Kmat10 from Canada (AB)

Aug 04, 2015
Rated: 3.46 by AndyEdgar from Illinois

Jul 30, 2015
Photo of wordemupg
Reviewed by wordemupg from Canada (AB)

4.36/5  rDev +9.5%
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
Rated: 4.25 by cjgator3 from Florida

Jun 14, 2015
Rated: 3.54 by MDDMD from Pennsylvania

May 29, 2015
Photo of Ilovelampandbeer
Reviewed by Ilovelampandbeer from New York

4.56/5  rDev +14.6%
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
Photo of Phillip380
Reviewed by Phillip380 from Florida

4.1/5  rDev +3%
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
Rated: 4.23 by Matagal from Brazil

Mar 18, 2015
Rated: 3.88 by grover37 from District of Columbia

Mar 15, 2015
Rated: 3.63 by imperialking from Illinois

Mar 12, 2015
Illuminating The Path from Cigar City Brewing
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 279 ratings