Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale: Is It Really You?

It was November 2008.  We were at the Village Tap in Roscoe Village watching the Bears blow coverages to ex-Bear receivers and get pummeled by the Vikings.  Easing our pain was my buddy's having purchased a pitcher of Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale.  For the first and only time, I was trying Laggie Red on tap, never having previously seen it on a Chicago tap.  Somebody pinch me.  We were getting it on tap via pitcher.  I believe that to be a pitcher of 8% beer.  Shaun would say, "Are you kidding me!!!"

But if I had only known at the time that this would be my last ever Laggie Red.  In the prior years Red had become a given.  Bottles of it were a Chicago summer tradition easily taken for granted.  Lush Wine and Spirits routinely stocked it cold.  Then, just like that it disappeared into the ether. That is, until now.

Fast forward to tonight.  My latest e-mail update from Armanetti's Beverages informs me that starting on February 2, Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale is going to be back on the shelves bearing a wicked 1072 OG and a lip smacking 84.2 IBU's.  Thems some hops.  It's described as being a "reconstructed" version of Lagunitas' first ever beer in 1993, and the one that well over a decade later cemented their place in my beer pantheon.

Like the beer itself, this is big because at the time it went AWOL thanks to Lagunitas' decision to stop producing it, Laggie Red was in my top 10.  In my reality it was easily the best red ale on the planet.  The experience of drinking it on tap that night was perhaps the best experience I've ever had drinking a beer.  But will its resurrected version taste the same?  Even if this Lazarus of red ales is truly identical, will the years of other intervening beers make me perceive it differently?

The fun is in the finding out.  Starting tomorrow.

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