Blue Collar Brew Review – Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball Ale

LagunitasEarlier in the week, I fancied a ride out to Minooka to see Mike at Route 6 Liquors. He sometimes has beers on the shelf that we can’t get in town and this time it was no different. He usually has Avery’s The Reverend quad on the shelf for cheap but this time it was sold out. But there were other new labels. A selection of 3Floyds beers, Gumball Head Alpha Klaus, Pride and Joy.

Eyeball bomberDown the line there was a new addition from Lagunitas, namely The Hairy Eyeball. I had never seen this one. This was the first time. Checking the label, I had to smile internally. Lagunitas always puts all the pertinent information on the label. All but one. There’s the original gravity number (1.090,) the IBUs (56.66) 2 decimal places no less and the 9.4% ABV. The only thing missing that would complete the picture was the bottled on date. None of their beers seem to have that. Perhaps it’s just too much trouble.

This visit was fortuitous. Mike had all his Lagunitas on sale for $4.99 a bomber. I nabbed 2 bombers and I had enough left over for a four-pack of Boulevard’s The Sixth Glass.

Mike’s not one for idle chitchat, but he does know how his distributors work. He mentioned that he ordered The Reverend but they dropped the ball on the ramp-up to Christmas. Give him another week, he asked.

Research into Hairy Eyeball revealed a couple of unknowns to me. First that Eyeball has been a seasonal release of Lagunitas since at least ’06. Here I am looking at it for the first time. Also, it’s classified as an American Strong Ale for which, the BJCP has no category. I’m sure that rather than accepting this as a new style, they’d rather throw it on the pile of Category 23 Specialty Beers. Here’s what I had to go on:

The label specified that Eyeball was a Perihelial Release. Had to look that up: The point in the orbit of a planet or comet at which it is nearest to the sun. So be it, but winter hardly seems close to the sun. But I may be wrong with astronomy not being one of my strong suits.

Hairy Eyball description

Lagunitas’ description of this beer is rather strange. Odd, but I see a bit of cold logic in the statement.

Lagunitas is growing so rapidly that even Sam Adams has an eye on them. They’re almost finished with their new brewery in Chicago. Maybe more of their labels will show up on local shelves. One can only hope.

Saturday night happened and it was finally time for the post-Christmas beer review and some drinking while writing. The only thing done beforehand is the research. The review is written with live beer standing nearby. One of the many reasons why I love doing this shit.

I grabbed the first bomber and used the quarter on the bottle cap opening technique to prevent denting it. A handy trick I learned at the homebrew club. Pry little by little all along the periphery of the cap and BAM! There ya go. And here we are.

Quarter cap Quarter opener





Eyeball foamI was expecting a dark pour but what I got was a bit lighter than brown. The head rose up about a half-inch and looking through the glass at the light showed the liquid to be a ruby red with a hint of orange. Carbonation was vigorous. Hardly any aroma but I did get a slight hint of malty goodness.

The first sip was a big surprise. A truckload of sweetness coupled with a big mouthfeel made for an amazing sip. This is not what I was expecting. A slight bitterness at the swallow was there but I had to look for it. This was a big beer in spite of its rather light look.

This beer has no similarity to a porter or a stout. The roasty, toasty notes are missing completely. It was like a laid back old ale style. It could be compared to a brown ale on steroids but the sweetness is too big in this case.

The head tended to dissipate. There was just a dusting of foam halfway through the first glassful.

The beer reminded me of an early Dragon’s Milk I had, but Dragon’s Milk is classed as a stout. This Eyeball is not stout. Maybe Brown Shugga’ barley wine. Nah. That rough, unsanded taste of Brown Shugga’ is not like this. Add a bunch of sugar of some sort to a batch of Shugga’ and you might end up with this Eyeball. But I doubt it. There’s too much malt for that. This was more along the lines of an old ale. But different.

The beer sips almost like a Belgian quad but without that brashness that the Belgian malts seem to have. The sweetness is almost dark fruit-like, close to a chocolate cherry. The malts and the sweets play off each other and share the spotlight in this beer. One could almost forget the 9.4% alcohol that’s printed on the label. The beer has a big potential to get one in trouble down the line.

Alcohol flavors were nonexistent on the palate and it was only much later that a slight build-up of heat manifested in the gut. By now you know that this beer is a slow sipper and a body warmer.

Hairy Eyeball is one of their seasonal beers usually debuting in November. Obviously, it’s on the shelves right now. Brown Shugga’ should be there as well, but I think the demand for BS is quite high. If you see it snatch up a sixer. I do, however recommend the Eyeball over BS just due to its less punishing taste.

I’d venture to say that the beer would age quite well at the 9.4% level, but I feel that these magnificent tasting beers should be drunk now, in the present. Vertical tastings are rare, so rather than host one, look to attend someone else’s. Unless that’s your bag. (Papa has a brand new one.)

Eyeball glass

Lagunitas rings the bell again with its Hairy Eyeball. A smooth, sweet, malty beverage that will warm the body and delight the taste buds. Putting the American Strong Ale on the map. I urge you to seek it out and enjoy for yourself this unique splendor.

Eyeball labelThe SixPackTech summary for Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball:

Style: American Strong Ale.
Taste: Sweet, malty, big and delicious.
Smoothness: Like freshly sanded mahogany.
Drinkability: Slow, easy sippin’ until the head doth protest.
Bang for the buck: Great taste for the price. Especially if it’s on sale.
Amount paid: $4.99 per 22-ounce bottle (may be regularly priced at 2 to 3 dollars more.)
Get it again? Pfft! Hell, yeah!
ABV: 9.4%
Brewer’s website
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: Kinda reddish. (sniff) A little bit of cherry smell. (sip) I don’t get any chocolate. (sip) The cherry is like that real dark, juice cherry almost like a red wine. It’s not bad. Not drying. (This one she nailed. Not bad for a newbie, even though she’s had a couple of sips of beer almost every Saturday night for a few years.)

Harry Caray

Harry Caray



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