Monday, September 3, 2012


If I could upend the way the beer dork establishment recognizes and popularizes beers, I'd de-emphasize the imperial stout significantly, and elevate the unrecognized and little cared-for imperial red ale to the highest heights of beer obsession. I wish every top-tier brewer had one. Something about the interplay of deep, rich caramel malts and tingling, biting hops - when done right - totally wins me over, and outside of a few Belgian styles, I'm ready to call it my "favorite style", for what it's worth. 

That said, there really aren't that many worthies. I haven't seen a Lagunitas "Imperial Red" around for some time, but that's the first one of this style that really knocked me for a loop. A few others have been terrific: Napa Smith Brewing's "Lost Dog"; Grand Teton Brewing's "Pursuit of Hoppiness"; Heretic Brewing's "Evil Twin"; Speakeasy Brewing's "Betrayal", Oskar Blues' "Gordon", and of course, a draft-only imperial red I had at Fifty/Fifty Brewing in Truckee, CA called "Red is the New Black IPA" that I enthusiastically (and quite correctly) rated a 10/10.

Let's add to this list a phenomenal imperial amber/red from the heretofore unheralded SANTA CRUZ ALEWORKS in, yes, Santa Cruz CA. I had an IPA of theirs back in 2008 and even though I tried to remain positive in this review, it's clear that it did little for me. But holy crap, their "CRUZ CONTROL RED" is one of the two best imperial reds I've ever had. I ordered it really as more of a thirst quencher/dinner accompaniment more than anything else, and ended up ooohing and aaahhhing to overloaded effect to my dining companions, two of whom were eight years old. But even they understood. 

It's rare to have a hoppy red ale so perfectly balanced between malts and hops, and to be so drinkable to boot. I believe this one only clocks in in the 6-7% alcohol range, which is a little lower than usual, but I assure you, no flavor was sacrificed in the making of this beer. It's everything I want in beer in one package, and, while I won't call it one of the all-time greats without consuming at least 2 or 3 more of these - I mean, Santa Cruz Aleworks can barely keep their website current let alone garner a single review of this beer on Beer Advocate - I'm very happy to provisionally call it a 10/10 right here and right now. It's something I will hunt down and seek out with extreme prejudice from this point forward.

1 comment:

Derrick said...

In the past, I found Santa Cruz Moutain Brewing to be "uneven" but lately, everything I've tried from them his been pretty solid or better than that.