There’s beer, then there’s good beer, and then there’s “woah, baby!” beer. Beer that blows your hair back. Beer that went through a lot of involved processes to reach your taste buds. This is a story about such a beer.
Lagunitas Brewing has been long-known as a company that makes great beer. Started in 1993 by Tony Magee, the brewery staff set forth on a journey to connect with other ale enthusiasts who demanded something better. It didn’t take long for the name to get around and by the mid 2000s the first wave of expansion began. As of now they operate two facilities; one in Petaluma, California and one in Chicago, Illinois.
I can recall with much fondness the first time I tried their Hairy Eyeball Winter Warmer. Having had a few strong ale of its sort, I was ready for some sort of boozy malt nightmare with all the charm of drinking Sterno. Absolutely not the case! This was the beverage equivalent of wearing a cashmere sweater on a chilly day. Immediately, I knew there was something special about Lagunitas.
They recently sent a pile of seasonal and specialty kegs into Pensacola and I snatched up one of each. The one I was most excited about was #3 in their Scare City Series; High West-ified. It took a little digging around to get to the bottom of this one, but what I found just drove my thirst into high gear.
First off, what’s with the name? Lagunitas usually employs less-than-normal monikers for their beer, but this one didn’t have the typical oddball sensibility. High West is a Utah distillery they’ve worked with in the past. Whatever is in this keg has been High West-ified.
The distillery provided Lagunitas with barrels that had aged both bourbon and rye whiskey at different times. This imparts a lot of complexity to the wood. The brewery took those barrels and used them to age a big, burly stout.
It’s an imperial coffee stout, to be exact. Putting to use coffee from cross-town buddies Petaluma Coffee & Tea, this hefty dark ale begins to take shape. Then, to really get the bells ringing it’s fermented to a fear-of-heights-inducing 12.1% ABV! All of this before being transfered into those smoky barrels. And it’s no blend, either; 100% barrel-aged!
I don’t think I’ve ever spied a beer this black. They should have named this Robert Conrad (eh, literary folks?). I’ve stared into the abyss and this beer looked back (philosophy majors in the house?)! Sporting a mocha head that leaves long strings of lace, West-ified has a nose of black licorice, butterscotch, chocolate, leather and bourbon. Like eating a liquor-filled chocolate, the stout packs a punch! Flavors of torched marshmallow, chocolate-covered espresso bean, molasses, dark rum and vanilla fist-fight each other for dominance of the palate.
Impressive, indeed! Woah, baby!