I’m a big fan of the new batch of “imperial red” ales. There’s something particularly fetching about combining the strengths of traditional ultra-malty red/amber ale (think ANDERSON VALLEY BOONT AMBER) with the souped-up, burn-your-tongue hoppiness of the double IPAs (think MOYLAN’S HOPSICKLE or dozens of other winners). Right now my favorite example of this combination is LAGUNITAS IMPERIAL RED (don't forget Oscar Blues Gordon, either), and I implore you to hunt that one down. Another one you might wanna give at least a congenial “hello” to is LOCO RED from Ellensburg, Washington’s IRON HORSE BREWERY. I bought this one in Seattle a few weeks ago, mostly because I was so impressed with their BEER SHOPPE IMPERIAL IPA last year. In both cases, Chris “The Beer Retard” Devlin was involved in facilitating the sale, this latest one at the actual cash register at Bottleworks, the store he works at in Seattle.
LOCO RED is a very hoppy, dark red amber ale, as advertised. It’s even a little harsh – but here’s my big caveat that I typed into my phone’s notepad: “…but not unenjoyably”. It has a really strong hop finish that you’re tasting for a good 30 seconds after the swallow. And yeah, it has a definitively strong malt backbone, as you’d expect. The smells are very pronounced, and even in a blind sniff you’d be able to differentiate this from a Double IPA. You might even be able to pick this one out as an “Imperial Red”, 2009’s hottest brewing style. I’m an unequivocal supporter and hope to taste a bunch more of these, pronto. 7/10.