Lagunitas has always been one of my favorite breweries. I’ve thought of them as a good brewer of very aggressive beers, but never as one of the premier breweries. After a win at the Toronado Barleywine Festival, I had to rethink my opinion. After all, the competition at Toronado is rather stiff, and if you brew the best barleywine, well, there isn’t much else to prove. So this year I was looking forward to getting my hands on the Olde Gnarly Wine.
When I poured the Gnarly into my glass, it smelled malty, with a big whiff of alcohol, kind of like the leftover after racking from first to second fermenter. There’s something very appealing about this. If you’ve never homebrewed and have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ll just have to go experience yourself. I love the color of this beer, a dark amber, very clear. You can tell by looking at it that you’re in store for a sweet, rich experience.
Tasting this barleywine was quite the experience. The first sip is sweet and warming. Malt and alcohol stand up front in typical barleywine fashion. After a couple sips, the beer changes. Maybe your taste bds are over ithe initial shock of all that malt, but the hops start slowly revealing themselves until the beer evolves. The sweet malt beginning is still there, but the hop finish becomes more noticeable, until the floral smack is nearly as bold as the sweetness of the start. This is a beer that lures you in. The label says it is a 9.6% beer, so be careful rushing through this one. On the bottle it recommends drinking 1 now, 1 in a month, and one in a year. I let this one sit nearly a month, but have two more, 1 I will drink in a year and the other….whenever.
I have to say, the seasonals that Lagunitas is putting out are some of my favorite brews on the market. Aside from the IPAs, their year-round beers don’t do a whole lot for me, but I do know a lot of people who enjoy them. I have to say Lagunitas is climbing the ladder into the realm of top breweries. They are definitely towards the extreme end of the spectrum, but what they do, they do very well.
Along with a tasting, you get a little news. If you’ve been hunting around for the newest Zappa brew, “We’re Only in it for the Money”, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Apparently there were issues with the label and the brew has been delayed. So in its place, they are moving up Lucky 13 Ale, which is one of my favorites. Look for Lucky 13 in 22 oz bombers to be hitting the shelves any time now.