Beer Review 0118: Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale

Lagunitas (pronounced LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) Brewing Company produces beer in Lagunitas, California. In 1993, they started with a beer called Lagunitas Red — popularity ensued, and Lagunitas moved into a bigger facility in nearby Petaluma.

Lagunitas doesn’t make the Red Ale anymore, but they do make this yearly release called Imperial Red Ale, which is a variation of the original recipe. According to the packaging, this beer is “big, hoppy, strong, syrupy, lewd, ribald, languid, effusive, scabby, stagnant, rugged, rank, vile, reactionary, flaccid, and above all else… Red.”


This is a beer that borders on the big stage — it comes in at 7.8% ABV (alcohol by volume) and is only available in late January. I found this in a six pack, although I’m told bomber size bottles are available, even though I’ve never seen them. On the International Bitterness Units scale, this one ranks 84 IBU — so, fairly bitter.

The pour made an average size head, creamy and lasting. The beer was more of an amber color than red, but it did have red tinges to it, and the body was clear but loaded with a light sediment. I could see the sediment gathered at the bottom of the bottle before I poured. The lacing was fairly good, with some nice pillowy bits left behind in patches here and there.

The aromatics were not very complex, but were very awesome. Right away, there’s a huge blast of pine, some tropical fruits, and it is balanced with a caramel sweetness. There are also some touches of grapefruit. This one smells like a beer that will knock your socks off.

Imperial Red Ale hits the palate with the bold pine note, some resin, and an earthy, dry caramel malt that takes on a very slight smoke character as the flavor plays out. I thought the beer to be medium-bodied, but full flavored. The mouthfeel was creamy but finished dry, with the bitterness coming to the forefront but not in an overbearing way. Given the 7.8% ABV, there is a bit of an alcohol warming effect.

This is a great beer with bold flavor and a bitterness that might be high on the IBU scale, but is balanced well with everything going on. I didn’t think this the most complex beer in the world by any means, finding both the aromatics and the flavors to be very basic — but what is here is of exceptional high quality, and I suggest you seek this one out if you can find it.

Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale, 94 points. Price: $9.99 for a six-pack.


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