Everything about Lagunitas’ Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is ominous. First, the name. Lots of clandestine, foreboding words in there. Then there’s the high ABV, the 66.6 IBUs (sign of the Devil), and of course, the message on the label which vaguely references the brewery getting shut down after the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre. Ominous, I say, ominous. The fairly strong alcohol nose doesn’t help the pre-beer jitters I get going into this bottle, either. Turns out, I’m just a big fraidie cat, and there’s nothing sinister hidden in this well-balanced brew.
The beer pours a dark amber (like a really pretty mud?) with a thick, creamy head. Technically, this is a spring seasonal, but there’s something hearty to the beer—from the deep color to the alcohol-heavy nose to the first sip, which delivers big notes of biscuit and a slight malty sweetness. There’s nothing terribly fruity here, but there is a bitter pop at the end, along with a dry finish. Ultimately, the heat from the alcohol and bitter bite aren’t the brewery’s attempt at extremism—they work to balance the biscuity sweetness. After all those ominous signals, Undercover Investigation Shut-Down is just a really well-made strong ale.
As for the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre, that much is true. The ABC did, in fact, investigate Lagunitas, looking into the brewery’s famous house parties, and decided to shut them down for 20 days, citing a “disorderly house.” Naturally, Lagunitas has been wearing that “disorderly house” citation as a badge of honor ever since.
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company
City: Petaluma, Calif.
Style: American Strong Ale
Availability: Limited, beginning in April