The Big Red Beer

Brewery and Country of Origin: Lagunitas Brewing Company of 1280 North McDowell Boulevard, Petaluma, CA, 94954, USA

Date Reviewed: 1-24-13

If you have ever strolled through the library of an American elementary school, you've probably come across a book series called Clifford The Big Red Dog. First published in 1963 by American author Norman Bridwell, the children's series chronicles the life and adventures of a red dog who was the runt of a litter of puppies. He was dimunitive in size until the love of his owner, Emily Elizabeth Howard, changed his life, and he grew to be over 25 feet tall. In the fifty years of his series, Clifford has become quite an American icon. Dozens of books have been released about him, from his first Christmas, to his first job, and Mother's day. The book series is credited for being largely responsible for establishing Scholastic, Inc. as a premier book publisher. Today, Clifford serves as the company's mascot. The series, including spin off media like movies and tv shows, deals with every day life lessons and other cultural or educational bits, such as teaching kids about, among other things, holidays, occupations, and differences in people. But perhaps most important about Clifford, is that he is a nice, caring, and helpful dog, who has fun along the way. And despite his intimidating stature, Clifford is a friendly dog. And in a horribly written and frivolously connected way, this brings us to a limited release red ale from Lagunitas. It's funny, because lagunitas also uses a dog as a mascot for their company. And like Clifford, this beer is red in color, and big in strength. This is an imperial beer, which to some may mean flavors and body feel too strong and heavy for their liking, but truth be told, this is a very forgivable beer. Just goes to show that even with beer, you can never judge a book by its cover.
Date Sampled: 12-31-12 At: 7 Prescott Place, Allston, Boston, MA, 02134
Beer Style: American Imperial Red Ale
Alcohol by Volume: 7.80%
Serving Type: 12 oz Bottle, 16 oz Tumbler Glass
Rating: 2.88


Lagunitas' Imperial Red pours only slightly choppy producing a lower than average amount of carbonation. This leads to a half inch tall foam head with a low density and fairly weak retention. After months of cellaring, this beer's sediment settled to the bottom of the bottle, but was easily stirred up during pouring, giving this reddish amber colored beer a slightly hazy appearance with a somewhat bright glow. No lacing is left on the glass.


This beer's moderate strength aroma is mostly characterized with a slightly sweet caramel malty flavor which is quickly overtaken by a dominating hoppy bitter presence. A secondary aroma of some sweet fruit and slight pine was detectable, as well as a very small amount of earthy note. Despite a moderately high alcoholic strength, this beer's aroma had no hint of alcohol content.


This is a medium light bodied brew with a medium high amount of carbonation - a combination which makes this a fairly easy to drink beverage considering its imperial status. Some weight and an average viscosity do little to counter this effect. This beer's finish is slightly dry with a very small amount of alcoholic warming. This beer's finish is crisp.


This beer's flavor is mostly full of caramel malt, giving it a sweet overtone. This is balanced with a trailing hoppy bitter close to the profile, including a lingering bitter and somewhat dry aftertaste. There is no earthy or fruity notes detectable, and no alcoholic tinge is present in the flavor.

Our Take

Just like the childhood hero, this beer is very mild and rather sweet, in spite of a rather strong presence, and a title of "imperial". In true red ale form, this beer is full of caramel malty sweet flavor which leads a fairly well balanced taste profile, which is capped with a more traditional bitter side. Though some of the flavors of this beer are fairly pronounced, none of them will be found as overwhelming. This beer's below average body and somewhat crisp finish make this beer easy to drink as well. And of course, this beer's moderately high alcohol content will be more than enough when it comes to delivering fun adventures, and yet, it doesn't distract from the aroma or the flavor in general. So you see, the extremely well thought out connection we made between a colossal crimson quadruped and this beer weren't so ludicrous after all. In fact, we can only assume that this new discovery will win us a Nobel Prize. Maybe, at least a Caldecott Medal. Well... probably not.