After getting out to my local bakery at 6:00 a.m. to get my reserved allotment of Pączki, I couldn't help but consider that there seem to be few beers intended for enjoyment during Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Shrove Tuesday, auditioning for "Girls Gone Stupid," whatever you call the last big party before 40 days of penitence. As far as food, most cultures mark the time by using up the last of the indulgent ingredients in the kitchen, i.e., butter, i.e., Pancake Tuesday. And craft beer doesn't figure into a full-on debauch when your aim is to get as much alcohol in you quickly as possible. Yes, these are the words of a bitter guy who never got to go on Spring break.
Lakefront Brewery of Wisconsin tried to fill that gap in 2010, when it updated its Big Easy Lager and renamed it Big Easy Imperial Maibock. They brough the alcohol up from 6% abv to 7.7%, just about qualifying it for Imperial status. Their own description:
We brew just a few batches of our Big Easy Lager every year to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Don't be fooled by this beer's light color: at about 7% alcohol by volume, it can very quickly make you the life of the party! Pours a brilliant blonde-gold with a bright white fluffy head.
Malty aromas blend with German noble Hallertauer hops. The flavor is bold and malty, with a robust sweetness provided by ample amounts of Munich pale malt that continues to the clean finish.
A great crowd pleaser, and a fabulous beer for Carnival, whether you're celebrating down in the French Quarter or right here with us in Milwaukee.
Pairs well with Cajun, or any spicy food. A rounded hop flavor and crisp carbonation lift the spiciness of gumbo and jambalaya, while the substantial body stands up to the richness of dishes like etouffee. The sweetness can almost even pair with caramely pralines.
I popped open a bottle myself. It poured with a good amber color, with plenty of bubble activity supporting a thin head. The smell is a little bit phenolic, that is, medicinal and syrupy, like a malt liquor. The taste does have big malts to it, but may have gone a little overboard, as again I get the fusel alcohol of a malt liquor.
I can't think of it much as a maibock or a doppelbock, as it lacks the finer distinctions that make up those style. But that's the danger of taking a recipe up to "Imperial" proportions: you can lose the balance among bitterness, sweetness and alcohol. There's even an impression of fortified wine toward the end.
Still, a perfectly fine alcohol delivery system for the day's festivities Rating: 2.6 of 5.0