For a company that celebrates its mistakes, missteps and bloopers with such success, Lagunitas Brewing Company sure makes an aromatically consistent product.
To my nose, almost every Lagunitas beer, from Belgian-inspired Stoopid Wit to a sort of Scotch-style brown ale whose name cannot be printed, shows, well, a chronic similarity to the Dogtown pale ale. That's great—big, resinous and dry, it's a winning profile. But if in the chill of a winter's gloaming, a sweeter, maltier brew is better cheer, here's a sampling of seasonal beers and one-hitters from the unlikely mega-microbrewery (or as mega as it gets in North Bay craft beervana) that step it up all the way over the top.
Lagunitas 2016 Born Yesterday Fresh Hop Pale Ale A warm-up to the winter warmers, this proves the unnecessary point that wetter hops don't make a drier beer. Reminiscent of the trademark pale ale, it's earthier and more richly flavored, finishing on a sweetly malty note that's positively English. Likely hard to find now—the next release is scheduled for October 2017 following the hop harvest. (7 percent alcohol by volume.)
Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga' itself was a barley wine–style ale that went wrong; Sucks is a "Brown Shugga' substitute ale." This apologetic ale goes down like a hopped-up, better tasting version of ye olde malt liquor of some of our misspent younger days. (8 percent ABV.)
Lagunitas Brown Shugga' Brown Shugga is, indeed, brown sugary sweet, not so much malty grain sweet, but reminds me of the slightly heavier profile of the Fresh Hop. With hops out of a similar bag as many other Lagunitas products, it is sneakily strong at 9.8 percent ABV.
Lagunitas 2016 High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout It takes a bruiser of a beer to overwhelm those hops, and this is it. Unabashedly boozy, warming and pouring as dark and thick as a 20,000-mile oil change, this monster stout, which was aged in whiskey barrels from High West Distillery of Park City, Utah, smells like burnt molasses but tastes like a creamy root beer float. Don't bother about a designated driver; leave this beer at home, where you may just need to designate a sofa—unless you find it on tap at several locations.
Last year, a few remaining 22-ounce bottles of 2015 High West-ified were generously retrieved from the Lagunitas beer library and hand-delivered for the Bohemian's whiskey barrel brew tasting (January 13, 2016). The new 12-ouncers at least give your better angels a fighting chance at responsibly consuming this toothsome brew. (12.2 percent ABV.)