| Booze |

Lagunitas Brewing Co.'s Cappuccino Stout

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This week's historical justification for sampling a random beer is also a cheesy metaphor. One-hundred-sixty-two years ago this month, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill near Coloma, California, kicking off a greedy rush West.

Today, if you drive two-and-a-half hours toward the Pacific from Coloma to Petaluma, California, you'll find Lagunitas Brewing Co., another valuable nugget.

Lagunitas makes, among other offerings, Cappuccino Stout, a coffee-brewed ale that weighs in at 9.26 percent alcohol by volume.

This brew is deceptively smooth and completely hides that robust booze content. Of all the coffee-based beers we've tried, this has to be the one that most lives up to its packaging, yet still retains the characteristics of a good beer. This is no marketing experiment.

The aroma was heavy on the coffee. Taking the bottle to the recycling bin the next morning, we found ourselves sniffing it, feeling like an addict longing for a caffeine hit.

To taste, the first hint was sweet. After that it varied. Each sip seemed to have an outer coating of bitterness with a milky, coffee-tasting, sometimes malty filling. It finished differently each time -- sometimes coffee-bitter, sometimes hops-bitter, sometimes sweet and smooth. This was just a fun beer to drink. Each swallow holds all the same flavors, but you experience them differently each time.

We tend to find that beers show their malt as they warm, but it was the opposite here. The hops were more prevalent the longer it sat in the glass, proving they were propping up the coffee all along (we'd wondered). We found it for $4.29 for a 22-ounce bottle at Central Market. This is one we'll buy again.

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