Who likes brown sugar? This seasonal Strong Ale is released in October of each year. The story goes, this beer was originally conceived when a brew of “Olde Gnarleywine” Barleywine somehow came out ‘wrong.’ As a result, it comes across with the hop strength like you’d find in a Double IPA, but with the sweet malty flavors identical to Barleywine. On the nose, sweet toffee malt rests over loads of fruity hops that smell something like pineapple and orange with hints of herb and spice.
On the palate, brown cane sugar establishes a big, smooth body of sweet malt flavor that genuinely tastes like brown sugar, but with additional toffee flavors. Midway, sweetness is balanced out by a tradeoff of bitterness as hops emerge with juicy fruit flavors. A rapid transition into mint leaves, herbs, and dank hop cones come to mind. The overall hop profile is like an assembly of over-ripened mangoes, oranges, and a splash of grapefruit, garnished with rosemary. An herbal spice lingers together with syrup and toffee flavored malts that refuse to let go. Hop oils combine with alcohol for a slight medicinal flavor that surfaces soon after. Light carbonation floats over a mostly wet, smooth, lush mouthfeel that closes with light warming. Alcohol is hidden quite well, thanks to the bitter dose of hops.
It’s either an over-hopped Barleywine or an over-malted double IPA that tastes like fermented sparkling grapefruit or blood orange juice. Lagunitas is great about blurring style lines, and as a result, they’re created some truly exciting flavor combinations that other brewers wouldn’t dare bottle. I’m certain many will find this too sweet, but then another portion would probably find it too bitter, then some too alcoholic. This is a beer geared towards those with a palate broad enough to take in both great sweetness and substantial bitterness. Make no mistake, this is a big, heady beer with huge malty sweetness, but because its so well balanced by a counteracting hoppy bitterness it drinks with considerable ease. I recommend it, but I’m not blown away.