Stats: Hybrid (DIPA/Rye Ale) ♦ 8% ABV ♦ 63 IBUs ♦ Petaluma, California.
Colour: Light Amber/Golden; Filtered. Medium-foam. Light-lacing.
Mouth Feel: Full-bodied & hoppy; long finish. Light-medium carbonation with creamy mouthfeel (contains oats).
Location/Price: LCBO ♦ $16.45/6-pack
Pairings: Roast pork; something carmelized (). ♦ Honey garlic wings; pulled pork ()
As quoted from Lagunitas:
The fall of 2011 brought with it the sad realization that we could not make the annual plan to wrangle with our most difficult brew, the BrownShugga’ Ale. E.K. Ross would have enjoyed our suffering as we moved through her stages towards acceptance final, but in that time of our deepest despair, as is common to artists everywhere; broke, hung-over, abandoned by the muse…and prepared to take a job at Arby’s, we found in that darkness a spark of inspiration that would yield up this nearly sanctified hop slathered recipe tragically named The Lagunitas Sucks Ale. This is that beer. In the tale of the farmer with the lost ox, the last stages are all that matter and in those desperate final moments, salvation is found. Having named the beer in that moment of darkness we are now bound to it and it us as an act of supplication and this name we now wear with a heart full of gratitude, humble and penitent before the recipe’s creator; the muse of brewers everywhere.”
I’ll start by saying that if you love Lagunita’s regular IPA you would likely be excited to see this at the store – and you should be. Read the story on the box about why they brewed this and you’ll be unsure whether it will be a terrible substitute or a naughty surprise. I would say its very much the latter.
This is a fantastic beer that really stands alone. It has a beautiful, warm, inviting light amber apricot jam colour – the invitation isn’t an empty flirtation. When poured, it has a moderate amount of tight, creamy head which further invites you take it in as you look at it – though the foam doesn’t coat the mouth and it dissipates fairly quickly, which I like.
The aroma is sweet, caramelized pineapple and dried apricot and a little bourbon? – its appearance sort of gives away its aroma which is nice. At the end there is also a faint earthiness.
This is a light-medium bodied beer, with a full flavor profile. Even though this beer is 8% alcohol, it doesn’t taste like it – there is no residual alcohol taste on the tongue and it doesn’t sting at all. I would also dangerously say I could drink 3 of these in a row because it tastes so good, but then would be in trouble!
It goes down easy and smooth, but my mouth is left with a resounding and perfectly balanced bitterness and creamy-sweetness. At first taste, I get hit with the beautiful bitters and the dried fruit ‘sweetness’ of it and wonder if I could drink more than one of these. But, drinking on, I get a rounder flavour that stays with more dried apricot, a little coconut, a bit of caramelized citrus peel, and a touch of burnt brown sugar. The fact this beer has oats in it also isn’t surprising given its round, balanced smoothness, as well as the bitterness of the rye. The aftertaste leaves my tongue with the bitters for a good 20 seconds, and some on the back of the tongue may be pushing it a little bit when combined with the little bit of alcohol that sticks around. All in all a very satiating and ‘pretty’ beer and one which may lead you back to buy as much as you can fit in your trunk like we did.
First Taste (10) = 8
Appearance (5) = 5
Aftertaste (15) = 13
Aroma (10) = 10
Mouthfeel (10) = 10
Overall: (10): = 9
55/60 = 90%
On the nose, it is apple or pear brandy, sugary with ripe cooked fruit — with a bit of minerality which I’d call “iron” and say reminds me of many good rye ales and rye-PAs. . On the mouth, and in the first taste, it has a balanced taste, a little sour, like the fresh, slightly under-ripe apple, or a some of the grapefruit which shows up next as the bitters kick in right around the middle of the taste. Overall, the beer drinks as if it were itself a marriage between a farmhouse ale and an IPA, blending perfectly the sour and bitter structures and rounding them out with the ‘unsweetened’ but fullness of the brown sugar/malts.
The mouthfeel is tight and silky, but with ample carbonation. The pour isn’t crazy with foam and tiny bubbles produce a light lacing which lasts but, again, isn’t crazy.
For the 8% ABV, you wouldn’t know it. There is a hint of the Belgian-style malts in that give the beer a bit of a spiciness but not the big spice of so many big Belgian-style winter beers … but the profile is there and the more you drink it, the more you will be intrigued by this complex after taste which sails through with the citrus and sugar to create an almost “burnt-orange” aftertaste. In other words, I’d say a bit of Grand Marnier to finish, which means brandy from beginning to end. Now that’s tight.
In sum, this is a rare treat indeed and one I instantly fell in love with once I got past the confusing marketing/labeling which I had to research to figure out (as I understand it, the reason for the “substitute ale” moniker is because this ale ‘substitutes’ for their truly ‘limited release’ “Brown Shugga Sweet Release” which they brew from October to December. As such, the “substitute” is for those other times I guess). And I would put it ahead of Lagunitas IPA, also a staple in my fridge and also a beer I love. But this one, it is something special and something to get your hands on when it is available.
For me, a perfect pairing would be a wonderful roast pork — a great winter treat — and if I had the right friends, I dare say this would be the perfect pairing for a pig roast.
First Taste (10) = 9.5
Appearance (5) = 5
Aftertaste (15) = 14.5
Aroma (10) = 9
Mouthfeel (10) = 9.5
Overall: (10): = 9.5
57/60 = 95%
Overall: 93 points
For a woman who really enjoys IPAs and their bigger brother the DIPA, this is a winner. It combines the perfect amount of bitterness which sticks with you long after you swallow it, with a sweet treat without any actual sugary taste. It is manly enough to stand on its own or accompany hearty fried chicken and sophisticated enough to replace creme brûlée for dessert. 🙂 This beer was love at first taste for me, and given its name, I’m not surprised.
While it is listed an “un-limited release,” truth is, the LCBO lists it as being carried “in limited supply – and while quantities last.” Not a surprise, we went back and bought a case with every intention of enjoying them slowly. I guess we’ll see if she/he gets to them first. The first test of our marriage?