Beer Review 0309: Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga’ Substitute 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 beyond the current Petaluma, California homestead — in Chicago, by the middle of 2013.
You can’t help but love Lagunitas sense of humor, especially on their labels. (By the way, Lagunitas has a shiny new website, which is a vast improvement over their old site — check it out at lagunitas.com.) Lagunitas Sucks, an Imperial IPA, was born in late 2011 after the company realized it didn’t have the resources to brew its traditional autumn seasonal, Brown Shugga’ (I reviewed that recently, and scored it 95 points.)
Instead of just announcing some sad news about Brown Shugga’, the company offered a different beer as an apology, naming it Lagunitas SUCKS. But what most didn’t expect was how good this beer would be — in fact, it flew off the shelves. I didn’t even get a chance to review it last year because it came in my bottle shop one day, and left the next. I never even knew they had it.
Lagunitas decided to bring Sucks back for early January — at the time of my review, this bottle is ELEVEN days old, a feat of shipping magic all the way from California to my location in North Carolina. Super fresh! Sucks comes in at 7.85% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 63.21 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
The pour brought forth an average size, bright white head, dense, pillowy, and lasting. The lacing started immediately as the head began to fade, and the color of the beer was a beautiful golden-orange, with a slight haze to the body. There were no particles or sediment, and the lacing ended up being excellent, leaving behind sticky sheets from top of glass to bottom. This tulip will need a good scrubbing before it’s used again.
On the nose, the ever-clichéd hop-bomb awaits: KABOOM! Tons and tons of tropical fruit — passionfruit, pineapple, and mango combine with a juicy tangerine. There’s a bit of sweetness and a decent malt backbone, giving off some bread and grain notes. Background aromas have some tones of grass; overall, Lagunitas Sucks is heaven in a glass, at least to my nose. This is like Hawaiian Punch or Spree candies. Delightful.
Of course, the palate is hit with all of those hops; ripe mango and pineapple up front, with a juicy tangerine or blood orange. Seriously, this is like biting into a juicy island fruit you’ve picked and put in a cooler for a couple of hours. There’s ample bitterness, but in no way does it detract from any of the flavors; it provides a nice background vocal. The longer you drink, the more resinous/pine the flavors become, whilst maintaining the tropical vibe. Finishing up, there’s hints of grapefruit rind, some grainy malt, sweetness, then a closing bitterness that doesn’t dry out the mouth. The beer is medium-bodied, with a creamy and foamy mouthfeel.
Lagunitas Sucks becomes my ninth beer to rate a perfect 100 points — folks, this brew is unbelievable. What I enjoyed most was this is an Imperial IPA, but it didn’t drink like one. High ABV India Pale Ales tend to have a tendency to either be too bitter or too sweet, but Sucks rides that fence perfectly. You must find this beer and enjoy it fresh. Lagunitas, you must make this year-round. And I must go get another! Good thing I bought a couple of sixers.
The beer gods are happy this evening.
Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga’ Substitute Ale, 100 points. Price: $9.99 US for a six-pack.