When a brewery that typically leans toward one variation of beers creates something completely out of its wheelhouse, people take notice. That was the case for me when I heard about Lagunitas Dark Swan Sour Ale. A departure from the brewery's usual hoppy repertoire, it’s a brew not just from the opposite end of the spectrum but outside the Lagunitas box.
A sour ale fermented with dark red wine grapes, Dark Swan is a beer-wine hybrid—an experimental style that's becoming increasingly popular with many brewers. Part of the brewery’s 2019 “OneHitter Series,” it’s brewed with petit sirah grapes, the Lagunitas house yeast strain, and what the brewery refers to as “a healthy dose of experimental dry hops.”
Appearance and Aroma
Dark Swan comes in the brewery’s typical 12-ounce bottle packaging. An S-shaped swan with black and white coloring helps to spell out the beer’s name on the black label. Dark Swan pours a deep, rich purple hue with a light pink-colored, full, lasting head. As I agitate the glass, a quick swirl of the beer and a cupping of my hand over the glass’s rim brings aromas of red wine grapes, berries, and a subtle acidity.
As with most things Lagunitas does, its take on the beer-wine hybrid ale is worth trying.”
The flavor of Dark Swan follows its aroma. Strong grape and wine notes come forth at first sip. This is followed by a lactic sour tang, which is toned down ever so slightly by the fruity sweetness of the grapes. An earthy, herbal hop bitterness is also detectable, but only in small amounts. The fruit and tartness take main stage here. The beer’s effervescent, yet medium-bodied mouthfeel adds to this, with the beer finishing dry and crisp.
As with most things Lagunitas does, its take on the beer-wine hybrid ale is worth trying. The usual signature hoppiness in Lagunitas beers takes a backseat with Dark Swan, letting the grapes and sour character sit front and center. All in all, I found this beer to be exceptionally drinkable, smooth, and refreshing with a well-hidden alcoholic character for a beer clocking in at 7.9% ABV.