As the days get darker, so do our beers. With imperial stouts returning to market, there’s no better intro to the season that Lagunitas “Unlimited Release” Imperial Stout. That “unlimited” stamp across the top of the label is like a declaration of this brew’s place in the craft beer world. So is the price point, which sits in the single digits, as opposed to some other comparable imperial stouts on the market. This beer is marketed like a regular beer, not something to be cellared, cherished, and saved for that special occasion that might never come.
In short, Lagunitas’ Imperial Stout is meant to be drunk.
The beer, too, follows that marketing accessibility. It’s definitely still a big, bold, and strong imperial stout—a style of beer that many find too rich and too boozy for their palates. It has a velvety mouthfeel with just a hint of alcoholic sting to the finish—it all quickly dries off the lips instead of lingering with a big bourbon and raisin emphasis. Where many imperial stouts are dominated by a barrel-aging or a raisin and dark fruit interplay, Lagunitas’ key profile is a sweet toffee and milk chocolate flavor, followed by an espresso bitterness to wipe away the richness. It still has those other elements within, especially on the nose and tip of the tongue, but it’s sweeter and more direct, letting the velvet texture dominate and the alcohol and bitter angles clear the palate afterward.
Coming at 9.9%, it’s a big beer with big flavors, but they’re layered and blended, giving way to a smooth-sipping imperial stout with a touch of sweetness. Lagunitas doesn’t offer the “best” imperial stout or the most complex, but it delivers exactly what one expects in the style—big, rich, and velvety—but without shaking any foundations or overpowering any senses. It’s as accessible as an imperial stout can be without sacrificing depth or quality. This is an imperial stout for the people.
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company
City: Petaluma, CA
Style: imperial stout
Availability: 22 oz. bottles, draft