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Review: Lagunitas Undercover Shut-Down Ale

Lagunitas makes no shortage of good great beer, and when I saw a local pizzeria carrying this enigmatically titled brew, I couldn’t pass it up.  Lagunitas, out of Petaluma, California, has a history of christening their beers with…unusual names.  There are normal names of course, like “Hop Stoopid” and “IPA” (clever, that one), but then there are less telling names, like “Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale,” “The Hairy Eyeball,” “Lagunitas Sucks,”my personal favorite, and “Wilco Hotel Foxtrot,” a collaboration with the band Wilco that describes it’s style as a jobless recovery ale, which from what I remember was very tasty and full of booze.  I guess that’s what you need when you’re jobless.  It’s good to note that a lot of these don’t even have a style listed on the label, as with our star tonight.  Looking at the label I know it’s 9.6% alcohol by volume, abv for those in the know, and 66.6 Ibu’s, International Bitterness Units for those not in the know.  That’s a lot of booze, and a good amount of bitter, though not too high.  Also on the label is the myth behind our puzzling name.  In tiny print around the edge of the label reads: “We brewed this especially bitter ale in dedication to all of the world’s would be astronauts, in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre on the Brewery Party Grounds and also in joyous celebration of our 20-day suspension that following January.  Do the crime. Do the Time.  Get the Bragging Rights. Cheers!”  Let me clear that up the best I can.  I have no idea what the astronauts are all about, but basically the “massacre” was an undercover investigation at the brewery that led to them receiving a fine and a 20-day suspension.  Something about the place being a “disorderly house.”  Wow, I’ve dedicated too much space to a label and a name—good job marketing department.

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Beer tasting, that’s what this is about.  I’m going to skip the usual tasting notes formatting people tend to use when they’re being formal and pretending they’re experts.  They’re not, nor am I.  I poured the beer into a glass, as shown in the picture, from North Hampton, New Hampshire’s own Throwback brewery.  Gotta represent.  It’s got a gorgeous reddish color, and not too much head—not surprising given the amount of hooch in there.  Smell is very malty, with a little floral hops, which is matched by the sip.  Well this is smooth stuff, thick and fluffy almost.  The hops are an earthy presence, but in no ways overwhelming as they’re beat senseless by the explosive bready maltiness which dominates this beer.  Apparently this is an American Strong Ale according to Beer Advocate.  I’m not about to refute that, as it’s certainly strong, though the alcohol hides well under that loaf of molasses bread.  Overall this is very enjoyable beer, I’d call it well balanced, but that would be a lie because, basically, this is boozy malt bomb with a generous donation of hops.  I love it.  The good and disorderly people of Lagunitas have another winner here and perhaps we have an undercover investigation to thank for that.

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