Good Beer Hunting

Cigar City and Perrin to Debut Limited Michigan-Made Jai Alai

Cigar City and Perrin Brewing, of Florida and Michigan respectively, have teamed up for a limited—and somewhat unique—collaboration project. The two aren’t working together to introduce a new beer. Instead, Perrin is slated to release a one-time-only, Michigan-brewed batch of Cigar City’s flagship IPA, Jai Alai, later this month. This will be the first time the beer is being made available to Michigan drinkers.

Brewery collaborations are a dime a dozen these days, but because these two companies already operate under the same ownership umbrella—as established by Oskar Blues and private equity firm Fireman Capital—this partnership has a much more interesting subtext underpinning it than your average alliance.

Most collaborative partnerships see a pair of breweries creating new libations and slapping both of their names on it. With support from Perrin, this is somewhat different. Here, Cigar City is able to trade on its own cache, albeit for a limited time, to make waves in Michigan, a state previously unfamiliar with its products.

None of that is to suggest that the two companies are one and the same, of course. Cigar City didn’t just email the recipe to Perrin and tell them to go nuts. Wayne Wambles, Cigar City’s brewmaster, was on hand to ensure reproduction of the beer in Michigan matched “every facet” of Jai Alai as it’s made in Tampa.

“I feel really good about the results,” says Wambles, in a statement. “After seeing the pH of the mash and kettle and the color post-boil, I think we hit this brew out of the park."

Consumers in the state shouldn’t take the collaboration as a sign the company is about to expand distribution to the market full time, though. Justin Clark, chief operating officer at Cigar City, tells GBH that tapping Michigan “on a more permanent basis” isn’t in the company’s immediate plans for this year. Eventually, he says, the company plans to establish a full-time presence, but there's no timeline for that.
“We really like Michigan and obviously we have a partner there in Perrin,” Clark says.
That said, the fruits of being part of a network with other breweries are coming to bear elsewhere, and not just on the production front.
Thanks to the additional brewing capacity the company is enjoying at Oskar Blues' Brevard, North Carolina location, it will be able to extend its reach a bit in 2017. One of the states it plans to tap? Colorado.
“Oskar Blues was started in Longmont, so we want to have beer out in Colorado,” Clark says.
It also plans to send beer, in a more limited way in part because of the state’s laws, to Utah—home of the Utah Brewers Cooperative, which is also part of the United Craft Brews network.
Those aren’t the only moves the company has in store for this year, however.
Having recently activated Tennessee, Cigar City also has plans to launch distribution in a few other states in 2017, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Jersey, in addition to the abovementioned markets.
As for whether Florida drinkers can look forward to a homespun version of Perrin’s 98 Mile IPA or any other brew, Clark says there are no current plans in the works. But the Michigan-made Jai Alai, which will be poured exclusively at the Perrin Pub in Comstock starting Jan. 28, will be available until the limited batch runs dry.
—Dave Eisenberg