Beer Review: Lagunitas Brewing Co’s Imperial Red is like a liquid hop! HOW??

Listen up, congregants.  There is a beer out there (I found it at Sunflower Market), and you need to go get some…now…like, I would forgive you for finishing this post at a later time if only you were instead on the way to your favorite craft beer establishment to get some of this beer. Are you on your way?  Good.  You can read the rest of this when you come back.  If you already have your hands on some of this amazing stuff (Name’s in the title, guys), please, hit the jump to read more about it.

Yeah, so Lagunitas brews some fine ales. I’ve talked about them before, but it’s worth revisiting: They freaking make some awesome beer. Are we clear now?  Still, knowing that Lagunitas is epic was not enough to prepare me for the liquid hop that is their Imperial Red. Let’s talk about it some, shall we?

Appearance: I poured this into a fairly skinny Sam Adams “perfect pint” glass.  I think the thin base of the glass might have made it look a little less red than I was expecting, but it’s not as red as I would have liked. Maybe a tad more roasted barley, maybe not. Fine head, off white, some lacing at the beginning of the glass, and dissipating halfway through the beer.

Aroma: HOLY HOPS, BATMAN! Seriously, I have consumed many, many hoppy beers. Many of them are nice and floral, some are citrusy, some have the piney resin aroma. I don’t know which hops Lagunitas used, as my hop knowledge is still in its infancy, but I’d guess Amarillo?  Simcoe?  Maybe Centennial? From what I understand, Lagunitas is understandably playing this one close to the vest.  I can best describe it like this: It smells like fresh, citrusy, piney, glorious hops.  Seriously.  They must dry-hop the sneakers off this bad boy because it is seriously a gorgeous aroma.  One of my favorite hop aromas of all time, and that’s saying something.  This beer really deserves to be crowned the King of Aromas.  Every single person (beer lover and beer hater alike) has wow’ed the aroma.  Did I mention you should have already gone and got some of this.  Freaking do it….now.

Mouthfeel: A big body really stands up to the hoppiness of this beer, which I was concerned about when I first sniffed this glorious liquid hop.  Mouthfeel is nice and rich without being syrupy. At 7.8%, you know they used a lot of malt, but not too much.  A master’s touch indeed.

Flavor: Mmmmmmmmm…I am amazed. The malty sweetness is a perfect foil to the astringent bitterness of the hops they used.  Is it balanced?  Yeah, man. On the one side, you have the hoppy bitterness of a mack truck barreling down the freeway at 75mph. On the other side, you have the maltiness of a freight train hurtling down the tracks at breakneck speed. The resulting collision is the flavor explosion that is Lagunitas Imperial Red.  Take a drink with me….you did get yourself some, right?………mmmmmm…man, that is one intensely good beer.  Lagunitas, I’m in love with your brewmaster skillz.

Overall: Do I gush?  Do I wax too loquacious in my effervescent praise for this beer?  You want something bad? Ok, how’s this…I’m about 7/8 through my glass.  I’m almost done.  THAT is the only sad thing about this beer.  Ok, so I didn’t think it was red enough for my tastes.  Honestly, with a beer this flavorful, I don’t freaking care. They could have called it Lagunitas Imperial Beef Stroganoff and I’d be here to tell you how freaking awesome it is. I can’t say enough good things about this beer.  But let’s get real for a second here.

This is the verdict of the Ale Evangelist. Raise your glass with me....you DID get some of this right? RIGHT?!?!?

Is it the most incredible beer I’ve ever had? No. I’m sure there are bigger, more epic in scope beers than this one. Is it the hoppiest? No. Is it the most balanced? Well….it’s up there.  But this beer IS a testament to the MASTERFUL skill of Lagunitas. The hop aroma? Up there with the best of the best. The balanced nature of the malt stepping up to the plate just when you thought the match was over? Second to very few. This is a SOLID beer, my friends, and you owe it to yourself to get some before it’s gone for the year.

~A.E.

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