I've seen this one around a lot in the beer reviewing circles on Google+ and it always gets a good treatment, and so, not for the first time, I am trying an ale based on the recommendations of other good people. And this recommendation is for Lagunitas IPA, which is from, uh... Lagunitas. All the way from California! I have to say I have been looking forward to trying it too!
Without further ado, then, would you like to know more?
Instant aroma on opening, very full fruity, and the pour created an instant frothy head that really stuck around. This was not predicated on a liveliness or insanity in the carbonation, as in, I didn't see a huge release of bubble or silly amounts of activity, but the head is definitely a large one and not something I have associated with IPAs before. Still, a good copper colour catches the light nicely and the grapefruit hops easily counter the smell of my evening meal (vegetarian shepherd's pie and, bizarrely, pasta with tomato sauce - oh, topped with grated Parmesan and that can be a bit of a smell!) and then sits looking pretty whilst I get my camera in order. Basically what I'm saying is that I am incredibly middle-class!
At this point my wife stepped in to offer to taste the ale and quickly snaffled it. She was quick to point out the grapefruit of the nose and on the tongue, with a face that told me she thought it sour, but she also conceded that it was full fruited and very citrus based. It was, as she put it: "characterful" and the sort of distinctive IPA that did not sit with the IPAs that I usually have. That is, it was memorable. Sure enough, on tasting I had to agree. A big wave of hops begins proceedings, rapidly filling the mouth despite spears of yeast in the small amount of carbonation, and then tumbles down through the centre to give a soft and full mouthfeel charged with fruit. Definite acid edge of grapefruit from the outset, but mellowing toward melon in the middle before chasing down to the back of the throat with yet more citrus edge and the distinctive grapefruit aftertaste finishing off the whole thing. Dry after all of that and staying toward the rear, unlike some of the recent brews I've been having that seem to go back and settle in the front of the mouth.
What can I say? It held the head throughout my meal, which was a not inconsiderable amount of time, and the taste survived the beating I was giving it with the various cheeses, tomato and herbs and spices in the shepherd's pie. I'm not sure this was the best match for the flavour, but it worked remarkably well and the whole experience was a good one. I suspect that the considerable strength of 6.2% ABV helps in maintaining the presence of this ale against the foods I had but this was offset, a little, by the excess carbs in the mashed potato and pasta in the meal. I can imagine that, had I not had this with such heavy food, I would have regretted it! Not the ale, you understand, the strength.
All told, this is an ale that has no gaps in the taste. Wherever there could be a gap you find it stuffed full of hops and the strength is a good proper IPA strength. Puts me in mind of the stuff from Northern Monk way back when and that's no bad thing. In short, it was worth waiting for!
This is perhaps best drunk at the end of the day with an evening meal, maybe a pie or a Lancashire hotpot from an actual hotpot pot. Despite being from across the Pond this is the sort of visitor that will rapidly settle into modern Britain, showing diversity and some flair at speaking the common language that separates the two parts of the Western world. Affable, packing the sort of punch that could level most opponents, it is nevertheless likely to be a bit loud and brash so maybe have something else to chase it with rather than settling on it for a night.