Today’s sextet of releases from Petaluma, California-based Lagunitas includes copious special editions and limited brews, plus two oldies available in new formats (hint: it’s cans!): Lagunitas perennial releases of IPA and DayTime.
Let’s dig in!
Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale – In 2005, Lagunitas was shut down for 20 days due to shoddy operations, and while I’m sure that was traumatic at the time, now the brewery wears it as a badge of honor. This sorta-kinda-IPA-style brew is loaded with both hops and alcohol (making it a strong ale by classification), and both of those elements vie heavily for your attention. The pungency of the bitterness is actually tempered by the heavy alcohol, giving it a sort of barleywine punch, with notes of malt, cocoa, and dried fruit more prominent on the finish. Chewy and unique, but two of these and you’ll be the one that’s shut down. 9.7% abv. B+ / $9 per six-pack
Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout – “Boatloads of roasted coffee” go into each batch of Lagunitas’ Cappuccino Stout, and as coffee stouts go, it’s amazingly well-crafted. The coffee element is rich, lightly sweet, creamy, and not at all bitter. The stout component avoids that winey-boozy character so common with these beers, dropping a gentle bitterness atop a bold layer of malt. The combination exudes notes of vanilla, chocolate malt, almond extract, and a touch of licorice lingering on the back end. Perfectly in balance, it’s a superb example of the coffee stout style. 9.1% abv. A / $6 (22 oz bottle)
Lagunitas Willettized Coffee Stout – This monstrosity, part of the 2018 OneHitter Series, is Lagunitas’ Cappuccino Stout (see above) dropped into Willett Distillery’s rye whiskey barrels for aging. (Note: Lagunitas’ website says bourbon barrels, but that’s a goof. See the first review above and you’ll understand. Just kidding.) Good lord, it’s just an onslaught of flavor here. Chewy chocolate, caramel sauce, licorice candy, baking spices, and a whiskey kick on the back — it’s all there, attached to a boldly leathery body that’s been run through the candy factory and doused in booze for good measure. The finish goes on and on, which is what happens with near-13 percent alcohol, I suppose. Fun for a time, but, as is often the case, a bit too much of a good thing, with a finish that is hard to get away from. 12.9% abv. B+ / $10 (22 oz bottle)
Lagunitas Night Pils Dark Style Pilsener – An “Imperialized dark lager” that tastes more like a stout than anything else. Chewy brown bread and coffee bean notes dominate, with a very mild bitterness provided by the hops. The finish sees notes of cinnamon, some lumberyard, and a lingering dark cocoa powder note on the back of the tongue. Not over the moon in love with it. Pick a side. 8.1% abv. B- / $5 (22 oz bottle)
Lagunitas DayTime IPA – A session IPA that’s been a longtime standard for Lagunitas, now available in cans. Light as a (golden) feather in color, with crisp lemon notes on the nose and a hint of earthy pine needle. A little gummy in texture, with mushroom and ashy tobacco notes that increase in pungency as the beer warms up. That spark of citrus does serve to keep the funk in check, but never quite enough. Tastes like it’s been constructed more than brewed, which is always an issue with “light” beers. 4% abv. C / $10 per six-pack
Lagunitas IPA – The standard-bearer, now available in these “mini-kegs,” cans of 19.2 oz. in size. Standard-grade Lagunitas has never been my favorite of their brews, as I typically burn out after about half a pint. It’s boldly bitter, but doesn’t offer much else in the way of a foil. Just earthy mushroom, tree bark, and forest floor notes that never really let up. Over time, the palate gets a bit wrecked, though if one pairs this beer with the right meal, some complementary flavors can definitely emerge, as you suss out that mildly floral finish. 6.2% abv. B / $2 per 19.2 oz can