Beer Review 0167: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

Lagunitas (pronounced LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS) Brewing Company started producing beer in 1993 with a simple Red Ale. That’s been a long time ago, but that one beer launched this company into something that would turn out to be huge: today, Lagunitas runs one of the largest craft breweries, and has plans to expand to a second facility located in the middle of America: Chicago, by 2013.

The current facility, located in Petaluma, California, produces some of the highest quality beers out there you can drink: see my reviews of their Imperial Red or Olde Gnarlywine — both of these beers have scored 94 points, outstanding on my scale.

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid is an Imperial IPA with an interesting twist. I’m sure that sometime over the course of my beer drinking career, I’ve had a beer made with hop extracts. But I’ve never had one that proudly advertised it on the side of the bottle; not that hop extracts are a bad thing. Just what are they?

The small amount of research I’ve put into the topic shows that hop extracts are essentially hop oils taken from hop plants. So what are the advantages to using hop extracts vs plain old hops? Apparently, hop extracts allow the brewer to much more accurately control bitterness, and may provide better flavors. I’m not totally sure, so if there are any brewers out there with information on hop extracts, speak now! (I’m looking at you, wanttobrew)

Another thing I’m not sure of: Does Hop Stoopid totally rely on hop extracts, or are there some actual hops used in its making? I’m thinking there has to be some real hops in here, at some point in the brewing process — all Lagunitas says is they cram this beer full of as many different types of hops as possible. The drink is advertised as 102 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) on the label, so this is to be fairly bitter.

Enough thinking, on with the drinking.

The pour produced a small and frothy head, lasting in nature. The beer was a very vibrant golden color, made especially lively by the stream of carbonation bubbles zooming to the surface from the bottom of the glass. The liquid was crystal clear with no particles or sediment, and the lacing was top-notch, leaving sticky sheets on the glass as I enjoyed.

I could smell this beer immediately after cracking the cap. There’s a hop explosion here, so be forewarned — if that’s not you’re thing, skip to something else. There are big notes of grapefruit and flowers up front, which are supported by scents of apricot, orange, and sweet tropical fruit juice. This beer takes on a slightly catty aroma, and there is a modest attempt at malt balance with a caramel sweetness and just a small touch of grain. I found this delightful, pungent, and the intensity of the aroma matched the bright color of the drink very well. A living ale!

If it smells like a hop, well… YES, this is one big astringent hop bonanza. Big hits of grapefruit and orange nearly overwhelm the palate up front, and the mouthfeel contradicts itself in a way I’ve never experienced in a beer before: it’s oily and slick, but leaves the palate parched and aching for another sip. The middle of the taste features some of those soft tropical fruits, hints at the apricot, and then gets a tad more balanced with a sweet bread-like note. Then prepare yourself for a crushing finish: waves of bitterness start at the back of the tongue, leaving along pine and bringing an alcohol warmth (8% ABV, or alcohol by volume, here).

Hop Stoopid is a fine beer. Hop extracts? I would have never known, honestly… and after tasting this, I’m not sure I really care. Unless, of course, some study shows they are bad for my health…hmm. But all jokes aside, this is a great beer with this simple disclaimer: if you aren’t into hops or bitter beer, you will be wasting your time. But if you like hops, you’ll probably adore (or at least be really fond of) Hop Stoopid.

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale, 91 points. Price: $4.79 for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle. An incredible value!


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