Lagunitas Undercover Ale: Keeping Deep Cover

The trick to being a good spy is keeping under deep cover.  That is why the classic Spy vs Spy is so funny, and has lasted the last forty years.  Not because they are good spies, but because they are such bad spies.  They were constantly blowing themselves up, or getting the better of the other in some stupid way.  It is a great comic and really funny.  So I was a little confused when I picked up the Lagunitas Undercover Ale, because what is so undercover about beer?  Well like any good spy undercover you need to be tricky and this brew lives up to that moniker…

Actually the full name (in small print, see I’m using my super spy investigative powers) is “Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale”, so again the name intrigues.  Why would a brew shut down an investigation?  I didn’t understand until I drank it.

The pour on this brew is full on amber. It had about a one finger white head that quickly dissipated.  I held the beer up to the light and noticed that there was a real party going on in the glass.  Lots of tiny bubbles coming up from the bottom and a crystal clear brew that was actually quite pretty.

The nose was big and malty.  Almost like a stout, but contrasting with the pour this didn’t compute in my brain and I knew I was in for a unique beer experience.  There was a hop note in there as well with just a slight whiff of alcohol.

So the flavor is where this brew really shines, and I was glad to finally have a really great beer after my experiences over the last couple of evenings.  This beer led with the big maltiness that was in the nose.  It was really an uncommon flavor for an amber, but delicious.  The maltiness then seamlessly gave way to a very nice, but not overwhelming hopiness. Kind of citrusy with a touch of pine, and on the very end there was just a hint of alcohol which was very subdued and well integrated into the flavor.

Well I was intrigued by the flavor, the name, and the overall concept of this brew.  What was undercover? Reading the fine print on the bottle I figured it out.  This is a 9.75% ABV beer!  But it was so well crafted and the flavors so big and well integrated it was very well hidden.  If I were to guess based on flavor alone I would have put this beer at 6% ABV.  That is what is undercover.  So it is tricky, sneaky, and wonderful!  Lagunitas is 3 for 3 with me, starting with their Cappuccino Stout, then moving onto the Hairy Eyeball, and now with the Undercover Ale.  They get it.

Previously I raved about Troegs Nugget Nectar, a very fine imperial amber, this is like that turned up to 11.  I am very happy I have access to this brew, and don’t need to depend on the kindness of my brother to send me some.  Get some and enjoy!


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19 Comments on “Lagunitas Undercover Ale: Keeping Deep Cover”

  1. April 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    I’m still smitten with their Hairy Eyeball. I love that stuff! But I hate the name. Who wants to drink hair? or eyeballs? Blech! But still a great beer.

    • Don
      April 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

      Yeah, it is a great beer. This too is great but in a much different way. The eyeball is a very rich and creamy beer, and this is more straight up with a bigger hop profile and huge malt and a medium mouth feel. It is very different, but equally great.

  2. April 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Had this one yesterday myself. Enjoyed it quite a bit. As much as I enjoyed the Hairy Eyeball. As a matter of fact, I was trying to remember back to that beer because they seemed sort of similar. I recall the Hairy Eyeball had more ABV shining through. And maybe there was a brighter hop profile. I’m sure if I was tasting side-by-side the differences would be obvious. Not having that opportunity, they both seemed to come from very similar stock.

    • April 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

      I find that a few of the Lagunitas ales I’ve had all have a similar quality to them, which I enjoy. They are the Anti-Saranac.

    • Don
      April 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

      To me the big difference is on the mouthfeel. The eyeball was so creamy, and this has more of a lagery mouthfeel, and is medium bodied. But it is equally tasty!

  3. Marvin
    April 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    The name comes from, if I remember correctly, when they got shut down because the feds thought they were growing weed in their hops fields. So the name comes from them honoring that time and the feds that tried to bust them for something they weren’t doing. The label used to tell the story about it. Been a while since I have read the label. I am finding it’s been a while since I’ve tried anything……I need to get out more.

    • April 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

      Having that story straight Marvin would mean Don would have to read the label. That’s a lot to ask, dontcha think? 😉

      • Don
        April 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

        Reading is not my strong suit. I like to drink though!

    • Don
      April 29, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      That is hilarious Marvin. I don’t remember the bottle having a lot of information on it, but there was a lot of fine print that I didn’t read. What a great way to celebrate a Federal raid!

  4. Marvin
    April 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Great beer either way. It amazes me the quality and ABV of Lagunitas beers for the price point they sell them at. Looking at them makes me wonder sometimes why so many others are soooo darned expensive.

    • Don
      April 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

      I would agree totally. I think I paid about $1.40 for the bottle and it was a great beer. I might go to the co op and see if I can pick up a six for around $8.00.

      • April 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

        Out here (in NJ) they’re more expensive due to shipping and whatnot, but I’m just happy to have access to them. Solid beers for sure. Might have to pick up some tonight!

        • Don
          April 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

          You know I’ve heard from some that there are bad Lagunitas beers. I haven’t found them yet. I have a WTF at home might give that a try tonight.

  5. Clayton
    April 30, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    I would definitely say Lagunitas doesn’t make a bad beer… there are just some styles I prefer over others.

    Brown Sugga’, Hairy Eyeball, Cappuccino Stout, GnarlyWine, Hop Stoopid… all very tasty!

    • Don
      April 30, 2010 at 11:41 am #

      I haven’t tried Brown Sugga yet, I’m not a big barleywine fan, but I do love Victory’s Old Horizontal, and Hop Stoopid, I don’t know maybe its the name. I prefer something really well crafted and I always thought with Hop Stoopid all I would get was just a hop bomb. But I’ll eventually give it a try too.

  6. Dan
    April 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    I just came here from the facebook page for the sanctuary. This is an excellent beer, and even better at the taproom. Too bad you are not in the area, this is my hometown brewery, and the taproom gets one offs every week. This week are a group of saisons that will be available. Recently had a maximus/IPA hybrid, and been dying to try the belgian IPA they had. And yes, its quite comical at the begining of this review about the reason behind the name, when the story is on the label. Although living in the city of the brewery, some stories do vary. If you notice any of their posters, you will always see a cleverly placed 420 reference. I wasnt aware of the suspision of growing from the federalies, as I havent seen their hopfields. The version I am aware of is the parties that used to be on premise of the brewery they would have on fridays, and the partaking of some people in the party of leafy substance that is illegal for some reason. Upon this undercover investigation, they were shutdown for a big, hence the birth of this awesome, extremely bitter beer.

    • Don
      April 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      Really Dan, you thought it was extremely bitter? I’d say just right! Very good brew. As for the story, you know reading has never been my strong suit, I think I said that. But creative writing abounds in the fertile synapses of my mind, so I have a habit of just filling voids with make believe stuff whenever I feel like it. Have a great weekend, and have one at the tap room for me. 🙂

  7. Nicole
    May 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Here’s the real story on why they call it Undercover.

    • Don
      May 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

      I never let the truth get in the way of a made up story!

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