As a fun counter to the wide release of their Session IPA, Lagunitas also released a black IPA in 22oz bottles. By the time I enjoyed my bottle it was not significantly brimming with hop flavors but still very enjoyable. This beer pours dark as any stout and should satisfy stout drinkers who don’t mind a little hop flavor in their beer. It isn’t as thick as a typical stout on the higher alcohol but it is still nice and smooth drinking.
The first thing I tasted with this beer was a smoky flavor that reminded me of barbeque or other smoked meats. The beer also has plenty of sweet caramel and chocolate flavors. Behind this I tasted some light citrus hops and a bit of strong bitterness (claimed 85IBU). My husband remarked that this one was too hoppy for him though I think he considered it too bitter. I was overall impressed with this beer and you should check it out if you happen to see it in stores. This special release was put out in April so it should be great well into July. Because the flavors are already much more in favor of the big malts it might be enjoyable much longer than that.
Outside craft beer fanatics, Lagunitas is probably more well-known than Russian River because their beers are widely distributed in Southern California. I decided to not get tasters of some of the more commonly available beers while I was there so that I could try some newer ones.
Lagunitas is also a brewpub, meaning it is open earlier in the day, and the crowds can get pretty crazy. Since we got there a little bit later and had already eaten, it wasn’t too crazy to find a spot at the bar. The outside seating area surprised me because it looks like you are visiting a ranch, complete with sandy floor and picnic tables.
I ordered a taster flight of Nelson IPA, Maximus Double IPA, SF Beer Week Double IPA, and Hop Stoopid. Of the four, Maximus and Nelson were my favorites. The Nelson IPA has all the grapefruit flavors you might expect from the Nelson hops. Some sweeter flavors recognizable from the regular IPA on the back end round it out nicely.
The Maximus Double IPA has plenty of tropical fruit flavors on the front end combined with some more earthy hop flavors on the back. The San Francisco Beer Week Double IPA is made with Nelson, Mosaic, and Hop 366. The beer had a slight soapy flavor combined with the citrus flavors from the other hops. Heavy pine flavor comes in the back from the Hop 366. I probably would have enjoyed this one a little more without the Hop 366.
I ended it with the Hop Stoopid. It was so strong that it became thick and syrupy. The flavors leaned heavily towards the tropical fruits. I recognize the style here but it isn’t for me. Lagunitas is such a big brewery that you are likely to find most of their core beers all throughout California and many other states. It was nice to finally stop in for a visit but I don’t think I’ll be back. Like Stone, I can get most of the best beers in bottles almost everywhere I look.
Lagunitas might not call this a Session IPA on the bottle, and I don’t blame them, but for hop-heads out there that is pretty much what it is. Session beers are anything under 5% in alcohol. Session IPAs are made by dry-hopping these lighter beers like you would with a stronger brew. This hits all of those parts nicely, coming in at a light 4.8% and 54IBU, this beer pours lighter than a pilsner and yet has all the delicious hop flavors I’ve come to crave.
All the dry-hopping gives this a delicious hop aroma that might make you think you are going to get an IPA. When I first tasted this, I thought it was a bit too much pine in the flavor. Over time I came to taste the tropical fruit and citrus flavors that I love so much. Though they don’t tell you the hops used here I expect it has mosaic hops in there somewhere. This is one of the first Session IPAs to hit six packs in San Diego and it blows away almost all of the competition. I still prefer the Modern Times Hoppy Wheat but it is different enough that I can enjoy both of these on regular rotation. With Stone’s own Session IPA set to release soon it has some serious competition.