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Oct 15, 2013 09:51 PM

Lagunitas: Pale Ale superlatives

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid has been one of my favorite big IPAs since the company entered my part of the country several years ago. It's a great, rich-flavored complex IPA that really holds it's own with about anything else on the market... plus it's very sensibly priced, unlike some other over-marketed brews I can think of...

So now Lagunitas has crossed the border (so I don't have to drive so far), and I notice two other offerings in the cooler: "Little Sumpin' Ale" and "Wild Little Sumpin' Ale".

This tasting was hastily put together, not blind, and no "benchmark" pale ale was tasted alongside these. On the other hand, if there's any brew I probably don't need a benchmark tasting for, it's IPA. Having said that, it's only half-true because II always learn something from blind tastings, even of very familiar beer categories.

Anyway, Little Sumpin' has a nice pleasant semi-sugary nose, and a great balance been dry and semi-sweet flavors. Nice lingering tastes... definitely would buy this again...

Wild Little Sumpin' is also interesting, but there's some nuances I'm not quite as taken with... maybe some spices added, or some special aging in barrels, who knows... if I wasn't so lazy I'd read up on what the distinction is between the two. At the end of the day, WLS gives me a bit too much dryness on the lingering flavors... I probably won't run out to buy this though it's far from bad.

Which brings me to the point that not every brew from every great brewer is going to please any given customer, but Lagunitas has at least two very chowish IPA's in my opinion, Little Sumpin' and the truly great Hop Stoopid.

Til next time....

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  1. Thanks for the report. Actually, I quite like most all of Lagunitas beers, but the two you mention are probably my favorites.

    1. I will also shoot from the hip w/o researching ... Little Sumpin Sumpin is a wheat beer, albeit a hoppy one. Little Sumpin Wild comes from a similar wort (but I think has a higher gravity) but is fermented with Trappist ale yeast, Rochefort if I recall.

      1. Little Sumpin is a nice beer when there are no better/fresher IPA's to choose from - I love seeing it at restaurants/bars that I wouldn't expect to see beer of that caliber being served.

        Most of their IPA's are kind of in the same range imo - with the regular IPA being a bit more bitter/rough, Maximus a bit more boozy. I just choose whichever is freshest at the store.

        Waiting for Daytime to show up again - to me this has a little more hop punch than their regular IPA's due to lighter malt profile and being a seasonal and finding it fresher than their regulars. Seems like it is late this year - I remember drinking it at the end of summer last year.

        I really liked Sucks (went through 5 cases) when it was out earlier in the year, but now its going to be full time and in 32 oz bottles which is likely to push it out of the value and freshness range I support. I would buy Hop Stoopid, but don't due to it being ridiculously priced in my area and lingering on the shelf because of the price - so I fully expect the same from Sucks after the initial curiousity wears off.

        I think my favorite beer from them lately is Dogtown Pale Ale. One of the better ones in its style imo. Refreshing and easy to drink, but interesting enough to have another.

        But I always feel conflicted when I choose their products since the owner is a bit of an ass - to me personally (after he told me I shouldn't buy his beers after I politely expressed my opinion about Sucks going to a large bottle format) and to others in the craftbeer industry. So when there is an acceptible alternative to their beer, I usually take it.

        15 Replies
        1. re: LStaff

          "32 oz bottles"?

          Was this a mistake? Did you mean 26 oz?

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Sucks will be released in 32 oz bottles, and I agree with him. I enjoyed this beer when it was available in the 12 oz six packs and a good value. However if the 32 oz bottles will be the only option from here on out (which is my understanding) then I won't be purchasing it.

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  What do you like about it?

                  I have to say that the whole 'good beer that looks like bad beer' shtick that is associated with the switch seems silly to me, but maybe the actual good reasons for the format just haven't occurred in my head yet. 32oz seems mostly like a sharing size, but probably I'd rather just share two or three (or four) 12oz bottles.

                  1. re: eethan

                    I just like quart bottles. They remind me of days long ago, when quarts were commonly available.

                    Here's a current example.

                    1. re: eethan

                      The reason behind it seems to be to limit sales (due to demands on capacity and availability of the hops needed) - and the owner of Lag thinks its cool.

                      From the horses mouth:

                      "In the world of brand management, which is the thing that happens right after you have a beer that people like, involves making choices and in my approach that has often meant leaving something behind in favor of something else. It is very mega-brewerly to try to stick it into every hole there is. One thing that make craft what is is the decision that we will make choices, which means leaving some things that are also valuable, behind. Lagunitas, if I did it right, is a 'story' that is told in beer and labels and I want to broaden the story into the virgin malt liquor box for a while.

                      In part I am also putting Sucks in 32's to keep the volume from overwhelming us. In the past I did the same thing when I decided not to make a wheat beer. In the 1990's that was also considered foolish, but I didn't want to be known as wheat beer brewery and that turned out to be a good thing. BTW, making an IPA was also less than a perfect offering back then. A few years down the road Sucks may end up in 12's, maybe even cans, maybe even pouches, but today that wouldn't be the right thing for what I want to accomplish.

                      It's all multidimensional and there are lots of moving parts. I expect that by putting Sucks in 32's I'll sell less than if I put it in 12's but, with our volume growing at 83% so far this year, more volume would have me in an even tighter spot than I'm already in right now... in the future all things good are possible, but the race is a long one. "

                      1. re: LStaff

                        Did I miss that period in the 90's when putting out a wheat beer risked redefining your brewery as a "wheat beer brewery"?

                        1. re: Insidious Rex

                          The only example of brewery with a wheat beer flagship beer I can think of is Widmer - and he is right in the sense that Widmer is now suffering because of it. Widmer's hefe sales are dwindling and you can tell they are grasping at straws - packaging changes/new beers - to try to overcome it. But I think that can said of any flagship brand where you aren't developing something else to eventually replace it. Sam Adams is in the same position as Widmer with Boston Lager sales in decline (except for the shot in the arm from cans this summer). And I kind of get the feeling Sierra Nevada's pale ale is doing similarly (if it wasn't for cans) - but Torpedo has quickly come up to speed to offset decreased sales of its flagship.

                          1. re: LStaff

                            But is Widmer's beer on par with Lagunitas? It's been a while since I've tried anything Widmer because I do have a ho-hum wheat beer association with them — so I could just be proving the point — but if their sales are dwindling when their beer is middling, I wouldn't find that surprising.

                            1. re: eethan

                              Apples and oranges. Widmer products are quite Germanic, while Lagunitas is in-your-face California microbrew. Both are of equivalent quality, but are brewed under widely differing ideas of what beer should be.

                              1. re: Tripeler

                                I guess what you're saying is, give Widmer a try again!

                                Sure, I didn't mean to suggest they aim for the same target at all---I was primarily wondering whether Widmer was worthwhile, since the last time I had one of their beers was before I knew beer as something worth paying attention to (like, ~10 years ago!).

                                (And not to lose sight of the original post I replied to, evidently I was proving LStaff's point)

                                1. re: eethan

                                  Confession time. I used to love Widmer's Amber Ale and then stopped drinking Widmer when AB got involved. Not too long ago, my son went out for a beer run and shows up with a mixed 12 pack of Widmer. After cussing him out and feeling the shame of not having performed my fatherly duties properly, I tried it and had to admit that they were surprisingly damn good.

                                  1. re: eethan

                                    I don't choose/ignore breweries based on ownership, just if I like the way they taste/drink, freshness, and value, and I think Widmer makes some solid, drinkable ales with clean yeast profiles.

                                    Hefeweizen is just your basic american hefeweizen with nothing that stands out about it except its drinkability and refreshment in the summer months. I like to add a tiny squeeze of lemon (gasp! - its ok I handed in my beer geek card a long time ago) to give it something to keep it from being boring.

                                    Speaking of summer, I think their Citra Blonde Summer Ale is the best summer beer there is. Super drinkable, refreshing, and just enough fruity flavor from citra hops to make it unique and interesting enough to keep drinking.

                                    I fell in love with Widmer Drifter about two summers ago when I picked up their summer mixed pack (which is still my favorite mixed craft 12 pack), but they discontinued it this year. It was a unique amberish/reddish pale ale that tasted like strawberries to me (result of summit and nelson sauvin hops). Had a really soft mouthfeel which made it quite drinkable. Replaced with Alchemy Ale this year which I also like, but not as much - it has a fruity/blueberry flavor - pairs very nicely with mild cigars too.

                                    The rotating IPA's have been hit or miss lately for me since I have a hard time finding them fresh enough in the bottle, but when my local had them on tap for a while, I would go just to drink them. Usually they are on the malty side with just enough hop presence to notice it as an IPA. I thought the IPL they made was neither IPAish or lagerish though.

                                    Nelson Imperial IPA can be good if you find it fresh - I cannot.

                                    Black IPA is a nice hoppy porter - but pretty much all of them are imo....

                                    I haven't tried any of their high abv specialty beers yet.

                                    It puzzles me that they have a distribution deal with A-B and I am within an hour of their east coast brewery, but the distribution of their beers are so scant in the area. Lucky if most stores carry just one or two of their lineup - and now sometimes that's the Ommission brand. The stores that do carry most of the lineup and 12 packs, the beer isn't all that fresh.

              1. re: LStaff

                Day Time is available now, and I think it's a regular product now, rather than seasonal/limited.

              2. Ratebeer categorizes little sumpin' as an "IPA with wheatiness" while the Lagunitas site describes little sumpin' as "a pale wheat ale"... for me the flavor is definitely more reminiscent of an IPA than a summer wheat.... but there must be wheat notes that I don't recognize as such, probably explains a fair amount of the distinction of this beer's flavor.

                Ratebeer calls wild little sumpin' a "belgian ale" whereas the lagunitas site says it's made with "trappist yeast"... I'll buy the belgian ale association...

                These are definitely artisanal, good effort... leading me to the one I'd really like to try: Little Sumpin EXTRA, described as a double / imperial IPA. Which about definites Hop Stoopid for me, so will be interesting to note the differences if I ever get the chance.

                1. Anyone tried Lucky 13?... I see that on the shelves now... reads intriguing like an excellent red ale...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TombstoneShadow

                    I have tried it. I'm not a huge fan of the style, but I enjoyed it. That could be because it's a bit on the hoppy side, like most Lagunitas products. I will still reach for Little Sumpin' Sumpin' nine out of ten times when I am standing in front of the Lagunitas selection in the store, but I like to try everything they do at least once when possible. Great brewery.