25 May 2018

Lag time

I was in P. Mac's for a different reason entirely when I found a Lagunitas event taking place. It centred around one of only two kegs of Willettized stout in the country. This is Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout aged in rye whisky barrels acquired from the Willett Distillery in Kentucky. That turns the 9.1% ABV imperial stout into a 12.6% ABV beast, but the subtlety it creates is phenomenal. There's no harshness or heat here, and all of the rich coffee flavours from the base beer are still fully present. They're joined by a gorgeous smooth and mature bourbon taste, much lighter on the vanilla than most examples of this kind. This isn't a complex beer, and it lacks any gimmickry; instead it represents a pure simple elegance, a lot like fine whisky itself.

A few short weeks later it was 20th April, bringing a multi-pub launch of their triple IPA The Waldos, and I was back in P. Mac's. Lagunitas tends to go big on the residual sugar so I was terrified of what would happen when the ABV hit 11.7%. Yes, it's thick, but the hop flavours are bright, clean and distinct. There's no sugary syrup and not even any oily resins. The flavour, as one might expect, goes big on bitterness, with classic Californian grapefruit and lime up first, then a softer and more nuanced pineapple behind. I found it remarkably easy to drink, though I'd say a few would sneak up on one very quickly.

Something gentler was required next, and "moderate... slightly alcoholic" read the description of Sumpin' Easy, despite it being a somewhat stonking 5.7% ABV: not exactly where I'd put the moderation marker. It looks light and innocent, a pale and limpid straw colour with just a very slight haze. The aroma is gently tropical: mango, pineapple and papaya, enticing me into a big first gulp. That showed the carbonation to be low, just a pleasant prickle of gas. The flavour is fruit-forward but not the way I expected. Instead of juicy tropical produce, it's sweet and sticky strawberries to the fore. Behind this there's an almost-bitterness which has a little pine but also some offputting plastic and cheap chemical candy. It coats the palate like one of those gummy ice cream IPAs. This isn't the summery refresher I wanted it to be and easy it ain't.

A sticky session IPA next to a clean and dry triple IPA? What have Lagunitas been smoking? Oh. I see.