Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Lagunitas Sucks

The Lagunitas Brewing Company certainly does not suck. 

Yet, the subject of tonight's review is of the 2013 vintage of Lagunitas Sucks (the Brown Shugga Substitute Ale).

Merry Christmas to me!
2013 Lagunitas Sucks, 8.0% ABV

Being the Eve of Christmas, patience may be short.  So let's not delay. Straight away to the review!

Sucks appeared a dichotomy in the glass.  Per expectations, over-delivering in a trait and the opposite in another.  The head was thin but surprisingly creamy.  Equally unexpected was the lightness of the body. 

That hue was close to apricot but a bit lighter.  Its effervescence was apparent with bubbles chasing each other to the more splendid cream head. 

The aroma was a point of no disappointment.  The scent was tremendously pungent.  It did, truthfully, lack complexity.  Alas, a meager complaint.  The fresh wave was embodied pointedly by two notes.  The first, and most prominent was freshly mowed lawn. And, in a secondary role was something akin to a sweat-soaked tee shirt, which was more pleasing than it may sound.  

What the scent lacked in complexity, it overcame in pure unadulterated might. 

The 2013 Lagunitas Sucks violently threw a Mike Tyson hook of an aroma that was heavy, powerful and delivered via a massive wallop.  

Take an 8-count to recover before diving in!

This year's Sucks was certainly a bitter beer. It induced jaw-clenching not seen since pre-Gladiator bouts. 

However, its bitterness was detected in a way that made it unlike any beer not of the Lagunitas collection. The profile was completely unlike other hop-bombs.  This would never be confused with Ruination or, even, Deviant Dale's.  Unlike its peers, Sucks was not particularly resinous.  Nor, by any means, thick. The bitter bite was delivered via peppery, fleeting, spiciness, and not from an oily, "wet" lasting hop base.  

That may be this beer's most noticeable flaw.  The 2013 Sucks amassed a powerful strike, but, unlike a true world-beater combination of blows, lacked the sort of follow-up that would make it devastatingly complete.

Moreover, the tart/bitter splash too quickly evaporated from the palate, and little was left lingering for a fulfilling finish. 

This year's Sucks was most powerful in aroma and that scent likely influenced the sensibility of the palate. It was difficult to distinguish what was being perceived by the tastebuds  given the boldness funneling through the nose. 

Though, that flavor profile, whether in the nose or on the tongue, was decent. To no surprise, Sucks was unmistakably reminiscent of another Lagunitas beer, DayTime.  Consider this the bigger, bolder, and definitely stronger elder sibling.  Fans of the fractional IPA, yearning particularly for a version more tart would not do wrong by this year's Sucks. 

One note that was exceptional on the palate and missing in the aroma was from intriguing sour citrus.  Precisely, 'twas ruby grapefruit, and especially tart.  Along with the previously mentioned bitter jaw-clenching, this aspect induced some puckering. This specific trait reminded of the same background hint that was present in this year's Brown Shugga (for which, Sucks is billed a "Substitute"). 

The ruby grapefruit, though, was more pronounced in this year's Sucks than in Brown Shugga.  Such is a highlight for Sucks. 

Brown Shugga is a beer so unique, it is almost hard to compare.  Yet, as Sucks is labeled as the "Brown Shugga Substitute Ale", the comparison is natural.  Both have appealing aromas, though Sucks' is much more overwhelming in the very best way.  One-for-one, however, Brown Shugga is the fuller, more complex beverage.  And, truly, better. 

A more apt comparison for this year's Sucks may be with the 2013 Victory Dirt Wolf. Dirt Wolf is juicy, with a big moist punch that Sucks lacks.  That, alone, doesn't make Dirt Wolf better, per se, but it exemplifies what Sucks is not.  If one is harking for last year's Hopslam, the 2013 Sucks is not that.  Dirt Wolf is much closer.  

Sucks is very very good.  But not great.  And not Lagunitas' best of the year which, for this reviewer's money, remains Brown Shugga.  The 2013 Lagunitas Sucks earns 3.5 stars (out of five), and receives a recommendation.

If you would like to learn more, please enjoy EPISODE TWO of TheCraftBeerGuru.com Podcast.  Besides Sucks and Brown Shugga, other topics include: 

  • The best weekend ever
  • Goose City Pere Jacques
  • Cigar City Brewery
  • Blue Jacket Brewery
  • Long Beach
  • Tampa
  • And, life aspirations

Please listen, and thanks for reading. 

Happy holidays!  And, during these holidays, cheers!

TheCraftBeerGuru.com Podcast #2

Please enjoy the 2nd episode of TheCraftBeerGuru.com podcast. 

Subjects include: 

  • Reviews of Lagunitas Sucks and Brown Shugga, Goose Island Pere Jacques 
  • Recounting of the best weekend ever
  • BlueJacket Brewing
  • Cigar City Brewing
  • Mr. Dundebak's
  • Tampa, Long Beach, and career aspirations 

Check it out!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist

A nearly religious experience.  

Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist made an appearance at DC's best craft beer bar, Churchkey. The specific batch number on tap was not clear, though it was described by Churchkey as a "Blend of 1 Year Old Whiskey Barrel-Aged Stout & Fresh Stout..." It's likely Batch #20, though the ABV indicated by Churchkey, 11.7%, did not match Epic's website (10.5%).

An absent batch number was about this beer's only flaw. Nearly every other aspect of the Big Bad Baptist was positively remarkable, and it began with a flush aroma that was rich with roasted chocolate.  The scent revealed the first hint of whiskey which supplemented rather than supplanted other enticing elements.  Those included nutmeg and spice flourishes. 

In the snifter, the Big Bad Baptist was opaque like a powered-down television screen.  The resilient head was the color of espresso froth, though a bit more bubbly than creamy.  As it eventually settled, dirty bath water-like suds laced the inner glass. 

The pungent aroma served well to introduce a tasting experience that was equally as dazzling.  First sip revealed a surprising effervescence.  The flavor profile was immediately bold with chocolate, black licorice, and subtle Coca-Cola.  

The whiskey was initially subdued, providing only slight peat. Also masked well, at least at first, was the high alcohol percentage.  

For being Big and Bad, this Baptist was, for a moment, gentle, and dangerously so.   

As the beer opened, the alcohol began to present itself.  The whiskey developed in the character and its warmth produced a welcome tingling right in the middle of this drinker's chest. The coffee remained secondary (tertiary?) to chocolate and the toasty alcohol.  

Pro tip: This beer is best enjoyed patiently.  Allow it to rest on the palate and build.  Swallow slowly and relax with the gentle creeping burn as it settles.  Enjoy the lingering pepper in the aftertaste.  

Delight in what was one-part beer, another part chocolatey whiskey-coke, and in all regards, absolutely delicious.     

'Tis the season of wonderful stouts, and the Big Bad Baptist is certainly that.  Tremendous, in fact. 

Few brewers have utilized whiskey barrel-aging as well as Epic has here.  It is a testament to their mastery that the whiskey notes showcased without overwhelming the excellent stout at the beer's base.  

TheCraftBeerGuru.com enthusiastically recommends the Big Bad Baptist.  Epic Brewing is rewarded with 4 (out of 5) stars for this superior stout.  


PS: Check out the first TheCraftBeerGuru.com podcast, HERE.