Beer Review 0251: Lagunitas Imperial Stout

Lagunitas (pronounced LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) Brewing Company started producing beer in 1993 with a simple Red Ale. That’s been a long time ago, but that one beer launched this company into something that would turn out to be huge: today, Lagunitas runs one of the largest craft breweries, and has plans to expand to a second facility located in the middle of America: Chicago, by 2013.

Imperial Stout by Lagunitas looks fairly innocent sitting in the bottle shop. This beer is cheap and carries a big ABV (alcohol by volume): 9.9%. The brewery describes this brew as a “hydraulic sandwich in a glass.” They emphasize that this is a beast of a beer, like eating an entire meal. The IBUs (International Bitterness Units) register at 72.

This beer pours with an average sized, light khaki colored head that is soapy and very fast diminishing. The beer, when out of direct light, looks deep black. And although the liquid is opaque, this is not black in color — when held to something bright, the beer is actually a deep ruby/purple color. It poured muddy in body but is free of particles and sediment. The lacing was fair, with a few bits here and there, but a mostly clean glass was left behind.

On the nose, the first thing noticed is massive sweetness — this Imperial Stout has port-like aromas to it, with a load of dark fruit; raisin, plum, and prune mix with lots of caramel and toffee. The high alcohol is completely hidden on the scent, probably masked by the abnormal amount of sweetness.

Lagunitas Imperial Stout hits the palate with all of those dark fruits right up front, reminding me very much of port. Then the first transition begins; there was a rush of chocolate and Tootsie Roll, and if that wasn’t sweet enough, the next flavor shift greets you with sugary and creamy coffee. The finish comes on with a hint of prune and fades away slowly with toasted bread. The big alcohol shows off after the sip, warming the throat and sinus.

Imperial Stout? Well, sure, I guess…but this is more like an Imperial Stout Barleywine. Yes, I know that doesn’t exist — the sweetness here is almost too much, but the complex flavors and all the transitions going on makes this a rewarding experience. However, drinkability suffers — you’d better have someone to share this bottle with, or I’m afraid you will not want to finish it.

Lagunitas Imperial Stout, 85 points. Price: $4.50 for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.


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