I picked up these last time I was in New York, far western IPAs making their way across the continent. While I have had a number of North Coast brews before - like their Rasputin Imperial Stout - and have seen them fairly regularly, it was only around last Christmas that I noted the Lagunitas starting to make itself known on central New York beer shelves. According to the Beer Advocate, Lagunitas has a broad range of styles in its portfolio and there is every chance that to someone south of the 49th parallel this new found addition to my beery experience might seem like a sign of a sheltered up bringing - you see, they have these parties...420 parties...where people have more than beer and where the cops couldn't buy any if their lives depended on it. So lets see how they stand up and see if they say anything about California to someone up here in the Great White North.
- Lagunitas IPA: tan foam and rim over orange-straw ale. An intersting take on the American IPA as it does not really leave the hops out there on a ledge hanging over everything else. Plus there is that orangey note like in the line of ales exemplified by Youngs Special London Ale, Eye of Hawk and Shipyard Export. To be sure, this is hoppy with pretty distinct green overnotes partnering with a twiggy baseline. The malt is fruity with apricot and apple along with good rough graininess. Lots of texture and complexity within a well balanced ale. If I were to question this IPA it would be on that twiggy baseline which is played with a fairly heavy hand, making for a fairly pronounced spice bitterness. But this is an IPA after all and a lingering length of spice is well within order. This beer could certainly take on a hot curry or Thai dish handily. Five percent of BAers raise questions, complaints laying mainly with its hop allocation strategy.
- Acme California IPA: More of a medium amber than orange ale with a rocky fine while head. Even lighter still in hops if not body. Less fruity, none of the orange marmalade construct, much more focused on the grain as grain and and makes use of its spiced hops with a much subtler hand. The whole beer has a quieter voice, like something you might get from the Brooklyn Brewery, but like that New York brewer's mildly agoraphobic East India Pale Ale. But when you listen you hear. Yet even more BAers find fault - a full 10%! One makes a very good observation about an oily pine like quality. I suppose that is a negative if you are all down on oily pine tree taste. I think the claim is perhaps more indicative of the problematic place IPAs find themselves in, sort of the place where ESBs used to sit uncomfortably. If you think that the IPA is only half-an Imperial IPA you may find this style now lacking. But I think that is unfair to the style and the brewer as one can take the extreme position in anything only so long.