Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Anniversary Ales — Lagunitas vs. Steinhaus Brewing Co. (Firestone Walker)

Lagunitas Lucky 13.alt
Anniversary Release

ABV 8.9%

Orangish yellow.
HOPS! Floral/perfumy and stinky/funky at the same time.
Sweet to start then intense orange blossom and big grassy hops.
Hops vs. Malts
(Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Finish: Sweet grapefruit with just a touch of bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Trader Joe's Mission St.
2011 Anniversary Ale
ABV 8.5%

Dark brown.
Aroma: Malty, smoky and woody.
Flavor: Smoky with some sweet cola notes.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): Malty
Finish: Very smoky with some woodiness and mild bitterness.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad): Good +

Blow by Blow
This week's battle features two anniversary ales that were/are extremely reasonably priced. The Trader Joe's Mission Street was $2.99 when it was released earlier this year and the Lagunitas Lucky 13.alt is currently selling for $3.99 in Southern Oregon grocery stores. The Mission St. is contract brewed for Trader Joe's by Firestone Walker in Santa Barbara. If you know anything about Firestone Walker beers then you know that $2.99 is a ridiculously good price for a beer brewed by them.

We had the pleasure of trying the Lucky 13.alt at the Battle of the Bones this year and we both chose it for best in show for the craft beer competition. We were hoping that the beer in the bottles would be as good as the beer we had on tap and we were not disappointed. The Lucky 13.alt is a hop lover's dream. It's full of ripe, juicy hop aromas and flavors. What stood out most to us was the strange and alluring aroma that was very floral and perfumy but also had a distinct barnyard funk. The finish is also fantastic, offering a great mellow grapefruit bitterness. Beer geek style note: The .alt in the name is not an indication that this is an altbier. Apparently it's just an obscure reference to alt.* newsgroups of the past.
Confused yet? Based on the rambling text on the side of many of their bottles, Lagunitas probably likes it that way.

The Mission St. is also a great beer but it's a completely different experience. According to the Beer Advocate website the beer is actually a blend of Firestone Walker's barleywine, imperial stout and robust porter. As you'd expect from a blend of those beers, the Mission St. is a dark, sweet and malty beer. The dominant flavor and aroma that we detected was smoke but it had some cola and wood notes as well. We tried it along with some smoked brisket and found the similar flavors to complement each other quite nicely. It would also serve well as a dessert beer.

Being unapologetic hop heads we both picked the Lucky 13.alt. Next time we head to the store I plan on buying a good stockpile of bottles to get us through the summer. For those of you fortunate enough to live near a Trader Joe's (none in Southern Oregon!), don't underestimate some of their seasonal beer that is contract brewed. If the 2011 Anniversary is any indication, future anniversary beers should be something to get your hands on.

Winner by unanimous decision: Lucky 13.alt.

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