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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leinenkugel Big Eddy Series: Wee Heavy, Imperial IPA, Baltic Porter

Big Eddy Series, $2.99/12oz
By Doug Dorda

Though the name of Jacob Leinenkugel has become synonymous with berryweiss and all other manor of shandy offerings, they have been releasing bold beers under the “Big Eddy” brand for over a year now. The beers found in this series include a Russian Imperial Stout, Wee Heavy, Imperial IPA, and finally a Baltic Porter.

Leinenkugels' aim for this series was to showcase that they are as serious about beer as any other craft brewery, and that they do not lack the vision to provide them to the enthusiasts of America. However, as the beers have rolled out, I could not help but notice that they seem to have flown a little below the radar – often times I will hear, “Hmmmm, an IPA from Leinenkugel, I wonder what that would be like?” As such, I decided to profile the three styles that we have currently in the store. Personally, I find each of them to be wonderful, bold, and hearty enough to stand their ground against many of the teriffic offerings that even our Michigan breweries produce. It is as though Leinenkugel has set a stake within their own brewery to simply say, “Yes, we make Summer Shandy, but our Baltic Porter will blow you halfway across the Adriatic sea!”

  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Wee Heavy, $2.99/12oz – The beer pours a deep mahogany, or tawny amber that is similar to a clear dark caramel. The head lasts for a brief moment, and quickly dissipates due to lower levels of carbonation. The nose in an intensely complex symphony of roasted nuts, smoke and dried fruits that are balanced with a mild presence of malt sweetness. Upon first sip, the palate is dominated by roasted and smoked malts that are encapsulated within a shell of intense toffee malt. Interestingly enough, the overall taste experience left myself, as well as other tasters, with the impression of banana. Overall, the ale fits well within the stylistic guidelines for gargantuan Scotch ales, and would be enjoyed with bread puddings, or even a hearty stew.
  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Imperial IPA, $2.99/12oz – Deep golden straw, reminiscent of rolling fields at twilight, this is how this ale appears from the depth of a pint glass. The head sits atop the beer as a thick cloud of well-coalesced bubbles that positively team with aromatic possibility. Copious amounts of citrus and piney resin jump into the nose as the glass is held closer; a mild note of malt helps to cut the onslaught of floral dominance. The taste reveals a heightened awareness of malt that is quickly overtaken by a showcase of intense hop flavors. The same citrus and pine notes are at play, but a nuance of fresh mowed grass can now be discovered. It is also important to note that the beer does not come off as overly bitter, due to a wonderfully struck balance with the malt. The finish leaves the drinker with just a touch of alcohol to remind us that the ale is 8.5%. I would love to enjoy this ale with grilled salmon, or any melange of mushrooms. 
  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Baltic Porter, $2.99/12oz – A void of color sits before me in the glass. The seeming pitch blackness is given small contrast when held to the light for blood red accents can be notes through this transluscent beauty. The head is a deep brown that offers notes of dark chocolate, raisins, and lightly burnt toast. The lager lays on the palate like silk, it simply slides along the tongue as it offers tastes of cocoa, caramel and toasted chestnuts. Each of these flavors has its own moment in the sun, and can be pinpointed distinctly due to the clean flavor profile of the lager yeast. As I drink this beer I am reminded of respites from a winter's day, sipping on hot chocolate while the fire crackles in the hearth. I would pair this lager with all and every manner of dessert, stroganoff, or chili. 

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