2013 The Hairy Eyeball Ale (Lagunitas Brewing Company)

Style: American Strong Ale

9.4% ABV

56.66 IBU’s

From: Petaluma, CA

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Brewer’s Note: “Laying there, staring up at the ceiling, head pounding, last night was a dim recollection. How did he get home? Was he alone? Looking to the left and right, the answer was yes, maybe. His head was full of ’rag water, bitters, and the blue ruin’.His teeth felt like he’d been chewing aluminum and his breath smelled like a burning tractor tire. There was a wrenching knot somewhere between his liver and East St. Louis and he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d wet himself. A yellow sine wave rang in his ears so loud nit made his teeth itch and he was sure that if he touched his skin anywhere it would induce a rhythmic retching jag. Even in the face of all that, he found himself smiling at the realization that today represented the fresh breast of a new year- an undiscovered country- and also there was still one warm, half-full, flat redolent Hairy Eyeball on the nightstand. Yes-there is a God. ”

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The beer pours a deep, rich mahogany with hints of rich amber, ruby, and brown. The beers with a head of medium sized, off-white/nearly-yellow bubbles that sit a healthy fingers width above the beer once they settle down, and leave a nice medium width lacing along the sides of the glass. In body, the beer is nearly too dark to see through, but is crystal clear and clean of any sediment or particles. On the nose, the beer smells tamely of toffee and caramel malt. There are touches of biscuits and rustic bread thrown in, but overall the nose is subtle sweet malt, which is surprising given the ABV. On the tongue, the beer tastes sweet, nearly cloying, with a fizzle of hot booze on the edges. Dark fruit sweetness is very prominent from the malts, and subtle acidity does work its way into the corners of the mouth, but bitterness is subtle to none-existent in the mouth. In flavor, the beer begins as rich toffee and bread malt, working its way towards oatmeal bread, then caramel. Sweeter caramel and booze enter towards the finish and carry a middling-length finish of raisin bread and caramel, almost like a bread pudding. The aftertaste is light, spicy booze and sweet malt caramel. A touch of stale bread runs across the palate. In the mouth, the beer feels on the plus side of medium in body, with a middling carbonation that does put a nice tickle on the tongue. Mouthfeel is crisp, slightly syrupy, and a bit prickly. When the beer leaves, the mouth is left sticky with malt sweetness and a little river of saliva in the cheeks. Overall, this is a nice simple strong ale/barleywine/old ale/what is the difference between those styles, really? This beer treads on the maltier side of the tracks, and carries a supreme drinkability, which is dangerous given the ABV. It doesn’t hit me over the head with any intense or decadent flavors, but merely provides good flavor and warmth to the belly. This is a perfect sipper after dinner, as it will not weigh the belly down too much. A nice beer.

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I was having a grilled cheese so I decided to pair the beer with it. The grilled cheese was made with Daiya “cheddar” and “mozzarella” (lactose intolerance sucks) alongside sliced baby bella mushrooms, black forest ham, smoked barbeque spice, Montreal steak seasoning, and Tabasco chipotle hot sauce, all crammed between two slices of Trader Joe’s rustic pane bread. On its own, the barbeque spice came through alongside a nice mélange of spicy, sweet, and umami flavors. With the beer, the sandwiches subtle flavors were all but lost, and surprisingly the booze flavor cut through a lot of the other flavors. With more sips, I did find a nice blend of the sweet malt with the spices in the sandwich, and a good blend between the bread and the boozy beer, but overall the pairing was mediocre. If I were to pair again, I would throw the beer up against rich meats or a sweet bread pudding with lots of fat to eat up the booze flavor.

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3.8/5

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