The explosion of craft breweries across the U.S. is a relatively recent phenomenon, but California has been experiencing it for quite some time. It is home to some of the oldest and most established craft breweries, including Anchor Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Stone and Ballast Point, to name a few. In fact, three of the top 10 craft breweries in the U.S. (in terms of production) are located in California. One of those three breweries is Lagunitas Brewing Co., which opened its doors in 1993 in the tiny Northern California town of Lagunitas. In order to keep up with increasing demand, owner Tony Magee eventually moved the operation down the road to the slightly larger city of Petaluma, where it continues to grow today.
Lagunitas is a good-natured brewery with a penchant for humor in its labels and beer names. For example, they originally named their copper ale “The Kronik,” but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rejected the name (claiming it made reference to marijuana or something), so they simply called the beer “Censored.” Lagunitas is also well respected in the homebrewing community for its tendency to freely share proprietary recipes for some of its popular beers. A few months ago, I remember listening to a Brewing Network podcast where one of the brewers at Lagunitas gave a detailed explanation of the ingredient list and brewing process for the brewery’s delicious Maximus IPA.
I really like Lagunitas’ beers, so I decided to try one of their more recent staples, the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale. First released around 2009, this is definitely a unique brew. Like many of their products, the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ departs from the traditional IPA style in that it is brewed with a large proportion of malted wheat. Wheat imparts a slightly different flavor than the more commonly used barley malt and results in a beer with a fuller mouthfeel and better head retention.
Pouring from a 12-ounce bottle into a pint glass, the beer takes on a very clear, light straw color. Although this is a wheat beer, it is filtered and thus doesn’t have the cloudy appearance you might expect from a wheat ale. Besides the sticky lasting foam stand, it looks similar to a Bud, but one quick waft will expel any doubt — the aroma is powerfully hoppy, with citrusy hop notes coming forth right away. The taste is full and sweet, with hop flavors dominating. I can best describe the hop notes as dank, spicy and tangy — clearly a lot of dimensions of hop flavor. There are some malty, bready flavors in the background to balance the hops, and the finish is exceptionally sweet. This beer is full-bodied and very thick but smooth at the same time.
Overall, this is a delicious beer with a lot of character. Thanks to the addition of wheat in the grain bill, it’s a little more interesting than your standard hop-bomb IPA. The Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is certainly one of my new favorites from Lagunitas, and it has definitely earned a respectable spot on my list of favorite IPAs. Drink on!
7.5 percent ABV
My ratings (out of 5):
$3.50 for a bottle at Rybrew