Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lagunitas - Wilco Tango Foxtrot

I have come to realize that since I have started this blog, I have been neglecting some of the larger and more popular names in craft brewing.  I look to be drinking some more of those revered brands in the near future and today will be no exception.  Today's brew is Lagunitas' Wilco Tango Foxtrot (aka "wtf").  While their knowledge of the NATO phonetic alphabet may be a bit lacking (the letter 'W' is actually "whiskey," not "wilco"),  their penchant for making good, hoppy beers is not.  Two things make me more excited than usual to drink this beer.

1.  I purchased this beer literally before they could even stock it on the shelves.  I saw a box full and took one to purchase.
2.  The top declares, "Limited Release."  Who does not get excited about that?

Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 8/12
A classic Lagunitas aroma of hops greets you immediately.  In a pleasant change, these hops do not appear to want to thrash you about the head with their presence.  They are the dominant aroma, but they do allow for a few (I do mean few) of the brown ale characteristics to show.  For a beer stating a 64.20 IBU on the bottle, this is rather impressive.  Once the head dies down a bit, one can detect caramel notes and bits of raw sugar.

Appearance 3/3
On the label, this beer (because it is described as "A malty, robust, jobless recovery ale,") claims that "We're not quite in the Red, or in the Black... Does that mean we're in the Brown?"  It would have to be classified as a dark red or a light brown (33 EBC).  It pours a lovely copper color with a light beige head that is larger than average and has amazing retention.  The only the superior to the retention is the lacing, which was left up and down the far side of my glass.  To date, I have never had a beer with as high lacing as this.  The foam  on top appeared creamy in texture, but not without "lumps."  They did not look like bubbles, but rather lumps as one would see in a more viscous liquid where the liquid shows a shape underneath yet still covers the top of the object.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 19/20
Never let the aroma tell the full story.  The first sip was laden with initial flavors of dark fruits and malt (almost "abbey ale-esque" in nature), which quickly gives way to a strong hop character though not completely.  The hops are definitely the backbone of the beer and are true to Lagunitas form: earthy, grassy, and not without its pepper.  The balance does lean toward the hops, but the dark fruit flavor is never absent nor overwhelmed.  The finish is a perfect extension of the beer's main structure and gives way to a fun aftertaste.  The aftertaste starts out nutty and bitter like a quintessential brown ale.  As it continues the taste becomes more bitter (making it easy to see the "black" they claim on the label), but continues and eventually rests as hoppy goodness on the sides of your tongue.  What a neat fading in and out of flavors!  Nice progression.

Mouthfeel 5/5
Wilco Tango Foxtrot has a medium-full body, medium-high carbonation (even toward the end of the bottle), and a nice, light warmth to compliment this darker style.  The body is a perfect balance of drinkability vs. body.  This brew is as thick as it can be to compliment its bold flavors, but not so thick as one would not want several.  Please do not read that as "this is a session beer."  With its 7.8% ABV, and robust taste, it is anything but.

Overall Impression 8/10
Technically sound and with a strong, complex flavor this beer is definitely one to try.  It successfully includes aspects of several different styles.  Malt and color from the reds, nutty and roasted flavors from the brown, and bitter, high alcohol content from the black ales.  Wrap that all up with a tolerable level of Lagunitas signature hops and the result is a very good beer.

Total 43/50 (Excellent)
This ranking puts is toward the top of the "excellent" category, and rightfully so.  Let me clarify by stating that I am not a far of overly hoppy beers.  I much prefer the complex, fruity darkness of a Abbey Ale or Tripel to the bitter assault of hops any day.  In fact, I was a bit hesitant to pick up this bottle of Lagunitas, knowing their love for hoptastic beers.  Long story short?  They got me.  This beer is not a blend of flavors who compliment each other and dissolve into one another.  This is a heavy-weight fight with both the sweet dark fruit and the hop flavors present and neither one wants to back down.

The beer is fantastic technically, and did not overwhelm me with its hops.  Don't get me wrong, the hops are strong, but they will not kill you.  In fact, you might find something you truly enjoy.  I know I did.  The best part about this beer was getting to the bottom of my glass, realizing I had bought a bomber, and pouring myself another.  Kudos Lagunitas!  I'll be sharing this one with friends.

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