Biscuits and crackers. If I were going to describe this new red ale from Lagunitas in two words, it would have to be “biscuits and crackers.” Although that wouldn’t do this beer justice, so can I have three words? “Fruity biscuits and crackers.” That’s better, but it still falls short. Therein lies the trouble with Lucky 13, a beer that is far more complex than its style belies.
Lagunitas first introduced this “mondo large” red in 2006 as an anniversary ale. Thus the name. A red ale is an interesting choice for an anniversary beer—birthdays are typically used as occasions for brewers to show off with outlandish styles like bourbon barrel-aged whatever. The red is humble in comparison, a style that’s often lost in the mix because it’s so middle of the road—not too rich, not too bitter, not to anything. But Lagunitas does what Lagunitas is known to do with this one and creates a big, bold beer that delivers plenty of flavor, style be damned. Lucky 13 is packed with kilned malts, loaded with large doses of Yakima hops, and comes in at a meaty 8.8% ABV. In short, this isn’t a red that gets lost in the shuffle.
Lucky 13 doesn’t have a huge nose, because reds typically don’t have a huge nose, but there’s definitely something hoppy going on. It smells a bit like bread, but bread baked with some juicy hops. It pours a rosy copper, like the color of liquid rust, with a great, tan head that sticks around long after the beer settles.
This beer is surprisingly rich and has some enticing sweet notes. The first sip actually delivers a ton of milk chocolate, which gets lost as I dig deeper into the beer and waves of biscuits and crackers take over. There’s a little bit of hoppy fruit in there too, grapefruit mostly, carrying over from the nose, but really we’re talking about different waves of bread here. The mouthfeel begins like a fluffy, rich cloud (akin to marshmallow), and then transitions into a thunder head—loaded with hop-fueled zing with a little bit of tingling spice on the backend. There’s booze here too, which comes in a hot wave on the tail end of the sip.
So yeah, like I said earlier, “fruity biscuits and crackers” doesn’t do this beer justice. But it’s a start. Check it out for yourself, but act fast. This limited brew is only on the shelves through June.
City: Chico, California
Style: Imperial Red Ale
Availability: 12 ounce bottles through June