Thursday, December 8, 2011

On the 12th Beer of Xmas, my true love gave to me...

December 8th, 2011… I’ll be honest. As someone living in the Northeast, I’ve had a difficult time getting into the Christmas/Holiday spirit. Maybe the “Snowpocalypse” back in October threw things for a loop. Snow in October and a balmy November?! What the heck is going on.

So Kate approached me the other day with a fantastic idea. Let’s take the “12 Days of Christmas” mantra… take out the DAYS part and add BEERS. WHAT A CONCEPT!! Without further adieu… I present to you the Beer411: 12 Beers of Christmas Countdown!!! For the next 12 weekdays, Kate and I are going to help you get through the day. Stop worrying about what beer to buy for your holiday gathering or family function. In fact, we’re putting the “FUN” back in Function.

Similar to the Fall/Pumpkin Beer season, people usually ask, what’s out there… Any recommendations, Tone? We are knee deep in the Winter Beer season, and with each year, there seems to be more and more options. Let Kate and I tell you what we like… so the next time you need to pick something out at the Package Store to dominate your Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party, show up as the CHAMP… not the Chimp.

…On the 12th Beer of Christmas… my true love gave to me…

Beer: Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 7.85%

What better way to kick off our little Beer411 Christmas Campaign… let’s head to Cali to visit one of my favorite breweries, Lagunitas. They are well known for their Little Sumpin, Sumpin, Little Sumpin Wild, Pils, Maximus… but this holiday season they, well – they kinda, err… uhhh… they @#$%@#$ up.

Actually, their problem isn’t exactly a BAD one either… Business has been GREAT for the guys over at Lagunitas. To the point where they are EXPANDING their operation at the brewery to meet the needs of the demanding craft beer public!

Only… one… problem…

Normally this time of year, they have one of their most popular releases, Brown Shugga. It’s a delicious 10.0% ABV that has been getting rave reviews. However, due to the expansion, the expensive ingredients and the lengthy time that Brown Shugga takes in the fermenters, the Brewers decided that it would be best to skip out on their Brown Shugga production this holiday season. If they tried to release as usual, they would not ONLY not be able to produce as much, but the extra time would cause a dip in production of their better-selling regulars. Too limited, too little… time for Plan B. Enter Holiday Ale, Stage Right.

Or, for the official name: Lagunitas SUCKS Holiday Ale (Brown Shugga Substitute)

The beer is comprised of a cereal type base. The beer purports to be "full of complexishness" from the addition of 4 grains -- barley, rye, wheat, and oats.
The pour is light in color… A red/orange hue, with mostly Amber overtone. Definitely a nice surprise as MOST Holiday beers around this time of year focus on Sweet, Malty, Rich, flavors. Flavors like Coffee, Chocolate, Nutmeg, Cinnamon… Nothing against them, they just weren’t invited to the party.

IPA fans unite… this has a big nose all over it. Tons of grapefruit, and almost a touch of orangey sweetness. Floral and citrus notes, as well. Hmmm… is that Pineapple? Some type of sweet citrus fruit.

Takin' a sip... yaaaaaa.(Thank you BeerCoasters!) A definite bitter presence here. I was surprised since the IBU (International Bittering Units) was around 63.21. It IS a pretty high IBU, but without looking at that number I would think that by taste alone, this beer HAS to be around 75 IBUs or higher. One of my favorite Lagunitas offerings is their Hop Stoopid… registering at a whopping 102 IBUs!! The taste in this case is pretty similar to the citrus smells I described earlier. You get hit with some sweetness up front, smooth mouthfeel and then a bitterness at the end. Clean, crisp finish.

As I mentioned before, this beer is NOT your normal holiday beer. Definitely a nice change for those of us that enjoy a quality IPA and are looking for a break from the Winter Lager, Caramel, Toffee, Sweetness that is usually found this time of year.

Food pairing… hmmmm. I’d go with a nice sharp cheese. This is a good beer to start your night off with. Full of flavor, high ABV, opens up your taste buds, and pairs well with cheese. Preferably, some delicious Calef’s Country Store Extra Sharp Cheese… :)

Overall: B+

Fear not, Lagunitas fans… it is reported that Brown Shugga will be back next holiday season.

…However, I would not upset if their Holiday Ale comes back from time to time. Lagunitas may SUCK, but this substitute, certainly did not disappoint.

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