I am revisiting this beer with this year’s batch, and Oh My God it’s still outrageously good! So much so I’ve upgraded its score on the Holy Grail Scale to 9.

My first sip hit like a dark wave of sweet chocolaty malt, smooth as velvet, rich as gold. The flavor evoked such pleasure I was shocked.


Make no bones about it, this stuff is good. It’s fall down on your knees and praise the Lord good. It’s take a slow long slip and lean way back and feel the pleasure all the way to your toes good.

I’m going to stop there. Any more praise will be overkill.

I called the brewery, but being Saturday, no one answered. I visited the website: Lagunitas Brewing Company. I wrote fan mail and asked for interviews. My head buzzed with the need to know more, more.

On the website it reads, “Brewed in a bizarre old world tradition using only water, hops, yeast, and malted barley. No dogs are harmed in our brewing process.”

Today, Tuesday, Tony Magee from Lagunitas wrote me back. I had written: “Is there a story behind this beer? Where did “Hairy Eyeball” come from? What is in it? Who’s the genius behind this recipe?” Tony as it turns out is the genius, the author, and the warlord of the brewery. In his own words:

The Story Behind The Beer is like this… We were wanting to do what no one was doing in 1995, a January Seasonal — a special beer for when nobody was really drinking beer. We were going to call it “Eye of the Dog” but decided the folks who make ‘Eye of the Hawk’ might not think it was funny as we did so at the last minute we chickened out and thought up “Hairy Eyeball” as a sort of hang-over spoof for January … whatever … the next beer that year was then called “Eye of the Hairball” (a wheatwine) and the third seasonal would be “Hair of the Dog Ball,” but we chickened out on that too and named it Maximus instead…

The malts are the key to this recipe and they center around some careful use of Chocolate and Black Malt… I write the recipes and design/write the labels… I started the brewery back in the distant 1993… Most of all, I’m glad you dug the beer and if you are ever in Petaluma I hope you’ll stop by!

Tony also gave me permission to print the story from the bottle. Now, don’t skip this, unless you’re going to go out and buy a bottle for yourself. I loved it:

“Laying there, staring up at the ceiling, head pounding, last night was a dim recollection. How did he get home? Was he alone? Looking to the left and right, the answer was yes, maybe. His head was full of ‘rag water, bitters, and blue rum. His teeth felt like he’d been chewing aluminum and his breath smelled like a burning tractor tire. There was a wrenching knot somewhere between his liver and East St. Louis and he couldn’t be sure whether or not he’d wet himself. A yellow sine wave rang in his ears so loud it made his teeth itch and he was sure that if he touched his skin anywhere it would induce a rhythmic retching jag. Even in the face of all that, he found himself smiling at the realization that today represented the fresh breast of a new year, an undiscovered country, and also that there was still one warm, half-full, flat, redolent Hairy Eyeball on the nightstand. Yes, there is a God.”

I went back to my local beer heaven to find they only had eight left, and he said that was it. There would be no more this year. So I bought two, one for myself and one for my friend Bill. I left the rest for other people to enjoy.

This ale hit a whopping 8.2 9 on my Holy Grail scale, the highest so far.

Better go get yours before they’re all gone.

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