Brewers often put their special releases in bigger, 22-ounce bottles. That makes sense to me. The few batches of home brew I've made all seemed to work out better when finished in larger bottles. It may be just my imagination, but the same holds true for Champagne. Magnums make the perfect format, offering a bit more freshness and pizazz than the smaller medium. Maybe it has something to do with the carbonation that marks both beverages. All this rambling is to introduce three new-to-me seasonal bottlings.
First up is Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale. No hiding the fact that I'm a real fan of this Petaluma, Calif., brewery, but the Lucky 13 took more than a few sips to win me over. Darker and a bit on the brown side for a red ale, it has a light but persistent froth. The aromas are all spruce and bitter hops, with just a nice touch of pale malt and citrus. Offers a big mouthful of flavors with toasty malt and a complex layer of resiny hops that shift from spicy pine to sharp lemon zest. Just gets better with every sip, but finishes with a citrusy bitterness that begs for food, if nothing more than a bowl of chips and salsa.
For a state filled with folks that like their beer, Idaho has remarkably few breweries offering product by the bottle. One of the newest, Laughing Dog Brewing, located just outside Sandpoint, does a credible job with their regular lineup, but their Devil Dog Imperial India Pale Ale takes things up to a whole new level. Dark amber in color with a rich, creamy head, at 98 International Bitterness Units, you'd think this one would bite your head off. All things considered, it is rather restrained and nicely balanced. The hop bite is consistent from start to finish but less aggressive than you might imagine, adding nice spice and citrus and a rich texture to the mix. Highly recommended for all lovers of IPAs.
Few breweries celebrate the style of richness and excess with as much success as California's Stone Brewing. If you're looking for calm and comfort in your stout, pour yourself a Guiness Draught. If you're ready for a walk on the wild side, try a taste of Stone Imperial Russian Stout. A dark, brooding brew with intensely complex aromas that include coffee, currants, licorice and leather. The robust flavors coat the palate with chocolaty malt, smooth hops, bitter espresso and creamy fruit. It sports a long, velvety finish that clings to your taste buds. For all that, it's a surprisingly refreshing brew that leaves you wanting more. One of the best in the stellar Stone lineup. :