Originally brewed in 2011 because Lagunitas was not able to brew their “Brown Shugga” barleywine-ish ale, which they usually put out at Christmas time, as a result of construction. Lagunitas Sucks has now become a regular part of Lagunitas’ lineup. The problem was the amount of space needed for the fermentation. So they chose to do a Holiday IPA, which would take less time to ferment. This one is mild for a double IPA. It has strong notes of flowers and pine in the aroma. Then it hits you with a combination of grapefruit, pineapple and a little mango in the taste. It carries a nicely balanced malt signature so no flavor overwhelms. I would have this beer anytime. It’s not necessarily the absolute best IPA I’ve had, but it’s pretty darn good. I would give it four out of five proper pints.
Wow, Great Divide you’ve done it again. This one pours a beautiful black color with a thin off-white head. Strong roast and coffee aromas. The mouthfeel is creamy delicious. The flavor is coffee, chocolate, vanilla, and dark fruits like raisin and figs, but the specific fruit is not distinct. I can almost taste the oatmeal as well. There is a slight sweet edge to it, but not overly so. It’s got a 9.5% ABV, but is well masked with the complex of flavors. I really like this beer. I give it five out of five proper pints.
Well, Stone, now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve been going along with your mediocre beers and then all of a sudden, after 18 years you decide to make the perfect IPA. This one really rolled my socks up and down. It pours a nice reddish brown color that I thought was an interesting color for an IPA. It has a nice herbal aroma that did not seem familiar to a particular kind of hops. I looked it up and they used El Dorado hops, which has a lemony flavor to it. They also added English Brown Coffee Malt, which gave it it’s color. The flavor came across with a little spice that I initially thought was like rye. It also had a slight lemongrass-y flavor and a little bready malt. A hint of black pepper came in at the end. The body was light and it was very drinkable in spite of its 8.5% ABV. It was not bitter, but did have some herbal hop flavor to it. I would definitely get this again, in fact, I may run to the store in the morning and buy more. Five out of five proper pints.
Well, I might have learned my lesson by now. Sam Adams so far has not impressed me with their attempts at small batches to rival the smaller breweries. This one pours a light brown color with a thin off-white head. The aroma is a little woody with hints of raisin. The mouthfeel is light for a Belgian style Quad. It really looks and feels more like a barleywine. The flavor has some complexity to it. There are notes of raisin, figs, molasses, cherries. There is also a hint of wood. Overall it’s a little sweet, but not badly so. However, I was expecting something a little richer and deeper. Maybe also a little darker. I didn’t detect much of a Belgian yeast flavor, but it may have been overcome with some of the other flavors and the barrel aging. It’s not a bad beer, but I probably would not seek it out. I give it two out of five proper pints.
For the third year, the ever growing cadre of Virginia craft brewers gathered in idyllic Nelson County, VA, on the grounds of the Devil’s Backbone Brewery for the Virginia Craft Brewfest. A total of 52 breweries were represented, though the number of breweries in the state has now topped 90 and is still growing. Unfortunately, the weather was not fully cooperative. It was cloudy the entire time and there was some light rain as well. The mountains were in partial view and were still as beautiful as ever though. There really are a number of impressive breweries represented at this brewfest and in Virginia in general. I didn’t make it around to all of the breweries in the amount of time I had, but there were still some standouts. I tend to gravitate toward the smaller breweries doing things aside from standard pale ales and IPAs. The biggest standout in this regard was Adroit Theory from Purcellville, VA. They were pouring “Love of the Damned,” which was a British style old ale with grape must added, giving it a dark and rich red wine like flavor. They were also serving “Fear is Your Only God.” A saison aged in Chardonnay barrels. This one had a little sourness to it with distinct grape and lemongrass flavors. In the VIP tent, Adroit Theory served B/A/Y/S, a stout aged in Tequila barrels. This was very nearly a perfect beer. I would give it five of five proper pints. It had the roasty stout flavor mized with some chocolate, cherries and nuts, along with a distinct tequila flavor wound in. It was a very complex set of flavors that literally wound its way around your tongue with each sip while different flavors traded the lead. Another standout was Center of the Universe Monkey’s Uncle lemongrass saison. It wasn’t quite at the level of the Adroit Theory saison, but it did have a stronger banana ester flavor and the lemongrass was more distinct. Another one I enjoyed quite a bit was Apocalypse Ales 6th Seal Snack. This was a stout with orange peel, raisins, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. It came out like a very decadent dessert with the cinnamon and cocoa flavors really standing out. Also, Midnight Brewing’s Banana Pancake was quite tasty, not as sweet as suggested by the name. The banana flavor seems to come from the yeast. There was also some maple flavor to it. Also, among my favorites was Old Busthead’s Chinquapin Chestnut Porter. A smooth mild porter with a distinct, pleasant nutty flavor. Lost Rhino’s Wandering Belgian was also a nice combination of Belgian yeast flavor with some real hop bite. Lastly, I tried Crooked Run’s Summer Night Raspberry Dark Saison. I’ve written this one up separately because it was so good, a week later, I went to the brewery and bought a growler of it. All in all, it was a good day. I saw later that I had missed some of the beers that won medals at the fair. Not a huge surprise because I really didn’t get around to all of the breweries. Maybe next year I will make a more concerted effort to spread the love. I may need a designated driver though.
Crooked Run is one of several exciting new breweries opening in Loudoun County, VA. Crooked Run happens to have what I think is the best location of all of them, being in downtown Leesburg, within walking distance to a number of great restaurants and shops. I’ve written about it before, but I wanted to write up this specific beer because it’s so darn good. I’m not sure if I was just off the first time I tried it, or this batch is better than the first one I tried, because it’s a lot better than I remember. I recently tried it at the Virginia Craft Brewfest on August 23, down at along the “Brew Ridge Parkway” in Nelson County, VA. It struck me that this is a really complex, silky dark beer, but it’s also perfect for Summer. This is critical to someone like me who really likes Fall and Winter beers better than the lighter Summer beers. This one pours nearly black with a thin white head. It could be the pours I had, but it’s not super carbonated either. It looks like a stout or a porter. However, it does have a subtle aroma of Belgian yeast and fruit. Still, this is not a fruity beer. It tastes like a dark Belgian dubbel, especially in the first sip. A subtle berry flavor follows, but never turns into a full recognizable raspberry flavor. I’m thinking the combination of the malts and yeast masks the distinct raspberry flavor and they all complement each other. Instead you get a combination of yeast, with notes of nuts, berries, a little raisin and a subtle non descript red wine flavor. The raisin and wine become more pronounced as the beer warms. The complex flavors mask the 7.5% ABV nicely. I had it with an orange birthday cake and also with a steak and it complemented both perfectly. I highly recommend this one. Five out of five proper pints.