Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale

Type: Double IPA
Origin: Petaluma, CA
Price: $10.59/6-pack
ABV: 7.85%
NSP: 15.79 (unscaled)

What’s the first thing you think of when you see “Holiday Ale” on a beer bottle? Winter warmer or brown ale, right? Me too. Not Lagunitas. Lagunitas usually makes Brown Shugga, an almost-barleywine strong ale, as one of their winter seasonals. But this year they were forced to skip it because a tun that was on a cargo ship on the way to their new brewhouse got shredded during a hurricane. Hence the opening of the new brewhouse was delayed, and yada yada yada, no Brown Shugga. Instead, they made this one-off mea culpa beer. And, in true West Coast style, why make a boring old winter warmer when you can make a thumper of an IPA?

When I stick my nose in the glass (and for this one, I buried it almost to the point of snorting the beer because it smells so good), I get a nice rich caramel, almost butterscotchy scent (seems to be a common thread over the past couple of weeks) combined with a good citrusy West Coast hop punch. In this case, the caramel unexpectedly prevails. But the script be flipped with the flavor- the caramel richness steps back a bit and the DIPAness comes through, though it’s not Green Flash DIPAness. It’s in no way palate-wrecking- it’s actually really approachable.

I’m just going to say it straight out- I love this fucking beer. I don’t quite know exactly why though. There’s a lot of complex things going on with it. Maybe it’s that they’ve given it this delicious caramelly richness but left most of the sugary sweetness behind, and in doing so, they’ve managed to not only balance the hefty hop load out really well but also keep it decently light in body. It’s unique in my experience (how often is something rich but also light?), and I’m having a bit of trouble figuring it out. This goes to show how good the folks at Lagunitas are- they can toss this together short-notice and make an IPA that’s better than the stuff 95% of the other breweries in the world can manage full-time. And so, Lagunitas, I agree- you suck. But that’s only if this is a true one-off and we never see it again.

As a postscript, know what I don’t quite understand? The Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ has 64 IBUs, and has only “a hint of citrusy bitterness” [Sambo, Non. Beer Rev., 2011]. But here’s the Sucks sitting at 65 IBUs, and it’s quite hoppy (though less than I would’ve thought for a DIPA). It’s sort of the same thing as Big Eye and Sculpin- Big Eye is at 85 IBUs, Sculpin at 70, and yet somehow Sculpin seems more bitter. Whatever, I’m sure Samer will swagger in here and give a seminar on alphas and betas and having a micropenis.

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