This hyper-hoppy beer isn’t for everyone, but remains a go-to option for longtime IPA fans who aren’t looking to break the bank. Assertive American hoppiness dominates the flavor profile along with pineapple, mango, and dank, resinous pine notes that call back to a bygone era of the style.
Style American IPA
Company Lagunitas Brewing Company
Brewery Location Petaluma, California
MSRP $10 per 6-pack
An affordable IPA made in the traditional American style
Bold fruit flavors and aromas create complexity.
Competitively priced compared to similar beers
Easy-drinking despite its relatively high alcohol content
Leans heavily into hop characteristics for its flavor profile
The recipe represents a bygone era of the style.
Some may consider the beer too assertively bitter.
Color: The beer pours a soft golden pale amber in the glass with a half-inch of head that doesn’t fully dissipate after two minutes.
Nose: Vibrant aromas of sticky pine needles, lime zest, and tropical fruit are upfront and center on the nose and leap from the glass. Hints of bready malt aromas serve as behind-the-scenes contributors to the overall scent profile.
Palate: Bold, hop-forward flavors dominate the flavor of this beer, drenching the palate with a medium-full-bodied mouthfeel. Juicy lime, mango, and pineapple marmalade notes burst forth, balanced alongside hop bitterness and dank, earthy pine resin. Although carbonation remains light to medium, it still accentuates the vibrant fruity flavors.
Finish: A long, lingering bitter finish accompanies each sip. Herbaceous and floral aromas come through on the aftertaste.
It’s impossible to talk about American independent brewing in the ’90s and early aughts without bringing up Lagunitas. The legendary beer maker opened its doors in 1993 in (natch) Lagunitas, California, but just a year later its skyrocketing popularity forced the brewery to move to nearby Petaluma.
By 2013, Lagunitas was the fifth-largest craft brewery by sales in the U.S. But in 2015, Heineken purchased a 50% stake in the company, stripping it of its craft status. And the global macro brewer would purchase the remaining ownership stake in the company just two years later.
Unlike many of the other breweries which were scooped up by conglomerates around the time, however, Lagunitas has largely maintained the quality of its core lineup of beers—and, thanks to its acquisition, many are on the lower end of the price spectrum.
That includes 2010 release Little Sumpin Sumpin,’ a slight play on the traditional IPA style which uses 50% wheat and 50% malted barley in its mash bill to round out and bulk up the body of the beer. This increased heft on the palate buttresses vibrant tropical fruit notes of pineapple, mango, and lime. Although it’s assertively bitter thanks to hop-forward and resinous notes, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ maintains a balanced flavor profile, rounding out its long finish with a fruit-juice-soaked crescendo.
What Lagunitas has done right for so long with this beer is also what might end up costing it more fans in the long run. While piney, resinous hop flavor profiles once dominated the market, more nuanced recipes have shown that the style doesn’t have to rely on shock to win over drinkers. In fact, the assertively bitter and hoppy flavor profile is likely to alienate some who tried to dabble in craft years ago but were turned off by the bitter hop bombs on shelves and tap.
Still, fans of the throwback IPA will find plenty to love in this widely available—and affordable—beer. At 7.5% ABV, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is by no means a session beer, but its bold flavor profile makes it a superb food pairing option for a wide variety of strongly-flavored dishes, from aged blue cheeses to burgers and even desserts like chocolate-chip cookies.
Lagunitas may have ditched its first brewery and taproom within a year of opening, but it has increased its real estate plenty since settling down in Petaluma. In 2012, the company announced plans to open an expansion brewery near Chicago, which became operational in 2014.