Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale

Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale

Brewed by: Lagunitas Brewing Company

Beer Classification and Specs

  • Style: Strong Ale
  • Variation: American Style
  • Seasonal: Spring
  • ABV: 9.7%
  • IBU: 66.6

Notes: Coincidence that the IBUs are 66.6, or is Lagunitas being clever again?

Brewer’s Notes and Ingredients

Imperial mild? … Uber ESB? Our malty and rich beer with a snappy hop finish truly defies style… We do know for sure that it is Unforgiven and Unrepentant.

Ingredients: Ounces and ounces of Malt, Hops, Yeast and water.

More Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale Images

First Impressions

Artwork: Lagunitas brand template, only their trademark doggy was not as prominent on the label as usual. “Undercover” in large red font.

Color: Deep reddish caramel.

Aroma: Malty, with mild hops. Smells like it’s gonna be strong, with sweet alcohol vapors.

The Tasting

Arrived in: 12 oz. Bottle

Served in: Official Lagunitas Largemouths

Let’s begin with the history of Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale. There’s a not-so-documented back story as to how Lagunitas actually came up with the name for this American Strong Ale. As quoted in the marketing materials:

We brewed this especially bitter ale in remembrance of the 2005 St Patrick’s Day Massacre and in commemoration of our 20-day suspension that followed. The ABC conducted an undercover investigation of our brewery, finding us guilty of operating a “Disorderly House.” We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.”

But what does that all mean? What was the 2005 St Patrick’s Day Massacre, and why was there an undercover investigation of Lagunitas Brewing Company?

Back in 2005, the ABC became increasingly convinced that Lagunitas was selling marijuana at their weekly Thursday beer tastings. What would give them this idea? Lagunitas claims it was all in good fun, but the event was advertised as ”420”, and started at 4:20 PM.

Well, this raised some eyebrows over at ABC, and for 8 straight Thursdays they sent undercover agents to buy pot at the events. People offered it to them, but never for sale, so out of frustration they finally cited 3 people for possession on St. Patrick’s Day (The Massacre), and suspended Lagunitas’ beer license for 20 days.

For a full account you can read the story here, but I think we pretty much covered it:

Update 3/15: This article provides even more details – A Song of Beer and Weed: How Lagunitas dodged a drug bust to become a craft beer powerhouse

Now that the history lesson is over, it’s time to discuss how truly delicious Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale was.

Undercover Investigation was the kind of beer that’s right in our wheelhouse — a big, bold, thick ale, with a heavy ABV. This was not an ale for the faint of heart, and as Lagunitas said in their notes, it’s “Unforgiven and Unrepentant.”

This strong ale was highly carbonated, like a caramel colored glass of soda. It poured a large, finely whipped, fluffy head that retained itself extremely well.

The suds barely died down, and held steady around 1/2 inch thick after we took a couple drinks. By the end of the glass, the foam finally started to reduce itself, resting at an impressive level of about 1/4 inch thick.

No surprise, a strong ale can be a little rough around the edges, but Undercover Investigation was surprisingly refined for a big hitter. You would expect raw and unfiltered qualities, but its substantial malt base made for a smooth, yet sweet ale.

Its finish was sugary alcohol, with a touch of citrus. Then just as the hint of citrus fruit appeared, sweetened hops kicked back in. The candied hoppiness lingered on your tongue from a lathering of effervescent bubbles, making for a satisfying mouthfeel.

This beer pairs best with a Friday afternoon, after a long work week.

Final Score: 4.5/5


If you enjoy thicker ales, look no further than this heavy hitting, yet surprisingly smooth, American Strong Ale. Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale went down easy, but does fill you up. Which is probably a good thing with that ABV, since it will shut you down…

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