The Hairy Eyeball from Lagunitas Brewing Company out of California is an interesting beer with an interesting name and we’re checking it out for The Brew Club today. From what I can tell, this is considered an ‘American Strong Ale’ and checks in at a respectable 8.8% ABV, but nothing on the label really indicates what’s inside the bottle.
The name is weird, and there is some discussion as to what ‘The Hairy Eyeball’ is. Well, my guess it has something to do with the blood-shot eyeball picture on the label, and the fact that Lagunitas Brewing Company has other brews whose names allude to questionable activities. OK, so that’s their marketing angle.
The beer is also supposed to be a seasonal ale? Liz picked this one up for me, so I really don’t know how old it is, but checking the Langunitas website, its a beer that gets released in the beginning of January? Hmm. OK, so how does this beer do this time of year?
I’ll admit that this beer overflowed out of my glass when I poured it! Of course I cleaned it up for the picture, but it did create a lively head. Not only was the head quite active, but it was very foamy and tan-colored. I’ve referred to this type of foamy head as ‘root beer float’ looking – and indeed it is! There’s also considerable lacing left, all the way through. The Hairy Eyeball at first glance appears black, but when you hold it up to a light its really a beautiful dark ruby-red color. Very nice.
The Hairy Eyeball to me smelled lightly of alcohol, and it really reminded me of some of the Belgian Christmas beers. Dark fruit like raisin and plum came forth along with sweet bready malts and candy.
Taste was similar I think, except I would add that in addition to the dark fruitish flavors, and bready malt, I think there was more of a sweetness reminiscent of burnt sugar – perhaps caramel, and I’d even say I’m getting a little dark chocolate too. The caramel flavors really seemed to linger in the aftertaste too, along with just the slightest warming from the 9%. This is definitely a malty ale, at there was not much in the way of hop bitterness in the flavor.
I think the best part of this beer is the mouthfeel and body. Recently, I’m in the middle of drinking mostly lighter summer ales, and Oktoberfest type stuff, so this beer comes along and hits the reset button. Its very creamy feeling, and has a good full body with substance.
Overall, I’m really impressed with this oddly named beer from California. If The Hairy Eyeball is meant for Winter, I can see why. Its a bit of a warmer at 9% ABV, and has a lot of nice flavors that to me would be perfect for those colder months. I did enjoy the rich flavors, sweetness, and full body. Good for any time of the year!