Category Archives: American strong ale
Lagunitas’ Brown Shugga is the first of their traditional winter releases, which a hitch in the expansion of the brewery forced off the schedule a couple of years back, a 9.9% ABV American strong ale, brewed with brown cane sugar. It pours a reddish caramel color which shifts significantly with the light, and has a lacy head that dies away pretty rapidly. The nose is mostly alcohol and yeast. Lagunitas seems to brew a lot of these not terribly well-defined strong ales, and you have to sort of feel your way with each of them, as there are not many criteria for American strong ales, except that they be strong. This one apparently originated a a failed batch of their barleywine, which gives an idea of the general character. It leads with hop bitterness and solid malts, which just begin to suggest caramel when the brown sugar cuts in. At almost 10%, it’s a sipper, and the various elements of the taste build up, sip by sip, but, at least for me, there is sort of a disappointing interval between sips, where there isn’t that much sustained flavor to enjoy, and what lingers on the tongue is primary the bitterness and the booze.
There is a lot that works here. It is pleasantly sweet, but not cloying, and the range of flavors present is broad. The alcohol is pretty well masked. In the end, it doesn’t quite come together for me, but that probable shouldn’t stop you from trying at least one.
For another review, which I suspect contains a reference to yours truly, check out this one at Ambrosial Brews.
Last Thursday’s tasting at The Hoppy Brewer was a Stone Brewing event, with a range of both regular and seasonal releases. I skipped the “Cali-Belgique” Belgian IPA, which I consider one of the best examples of the style I’ve tried, and the “Ruination” imperial IPA, which probably doesn’t need much introduction. That left four beers, only one of which I had tasted before.
The “Smoked Porter” (5.9% ABV) was a pleasant surprise. It’s a good porter. Nice and dark, with plenty of body and a bit of cream that comes through the mild, but very tasty smoke.
The 2011 “Double Bastard” is an imperial version of “Arrogant Bastard,” a 7.2% American strong ale, so it’s no surprise that it weighs in at 10.5% ABV. It’s bigger than the original, but also mellower in many ways, as you would expect from an imperial. The dominant flavors are caramel and booze, with enough hops to balance things.
I had tried the “Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout” before, expecting it to be a little “busy,” but it’s really a very well-balanced Russian imperial stout. The anise does come forward quite a bit as it warms, but it’s very, very tasty. My taste last week just confirmed my first impressions.
The “11.11.11. Vertical,” a 9.4% Belgian strong pale ale brewed with chiles and cinnamon, was the selection I was most interested in—and the one I was most uncertain that I would like. I needn’t have worried. It’s a great beer. The Belgian yeast and the chiles mix in ways that I wouldn’t have anticipated. The cinnamon doesn’t come through particularly, but it’s hard to know what its absence would do to the mix.
All in all, it was a pretty impressive line-up. I had more than half convinced myself that Stone wasn’t really a brewery I cared much about these days, but they certainly produce some good beers.