Yes, boys and girls, another Lagunitas beer! In the summertime, Lagunitas offers a seasonal wheat beer called Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. In September 2009, they released the beer I’m drinking, Little Sumpin’ Extra! which is, presumably, an imperial version of the normal Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.
Since this beer was released last September, that makes it about a year old. I’m not sure when I bought it or where, but my guess is I probably picked it up at Lukas in Overland Park. The beer comes in a 22oz bomber and the stats are right on the label: 72.51 IBU and 8.74%ABV. That means it has a lot of hops (big surprise) and a lot of alcohol to you unscientific types!
I have not had the original Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ beer this one is based on, but the original is made with 50% wheat in the malt bill, making it a wheat beer. Knowing Lagunitas the way I do, though, if you’re thinking “Boulevard Wheat” then that is likely a big mistake. Lagunitas are completely hops obsessed and their trademark brewing style is cramming as much hops into their beers as humanly possible, so I’m guessing their version of a “wheat beer” is still more of an IPA than most in the midwest may be used to.
The beer pours a nice orange color with a creamy, full head of off-white, densely packed bubbles. higher hopped and higher alcohol beers tend to be hard on head retention, and this is no different. It disappears quickly. There is some cloudiness to the beer, but it looks more to be from bottle-conditioning than from the wheat. True to Lagunitas, the aroma is hoppy, but still mellow. Keep in mind that hoppy beers are best drunk fresh, and with age, hop character will decrease in a beer. That said, the Little Sumpin’ Extra has a nice aroma of hops with a really tropical undertone to me (pineapple, soft fruit), rather than the grapefruit and citrus I often pick up from their beers. The aroma seems sweet to me, too, so there must be some malt in there too.
Of course, the flavor of the beer is hops-dominated, but it isn’t quite as over the top as some of Lagunitas’s offerings can be. At this age, though, it’s tough to know if that is by design or age. If someone handed you this beer and asked you to sip, and then said, “That’s from Lagunitas” your first reaction would not be, “Really, that’s SO different for them…” This is a Lagunitas beer through and through. If you don’t know what that means, pick up a mixed six pack of different labels from them and you’ll see that their beers are all of the same vein, not that it’s a bad thing.
The hop flavor is still of soft, tropical fruit. It’s hard to explain, but it’s not the citrus flavors of hops coming through, or the piney-resiny-earthy variety. The hop character is similar to what I remember Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo to be like, which has a lot of pineapple character, although I’m not picking that up specifically in this beer. Part of it is that while there are a lot of hops in this beer (72.51IBU!), the hops are tempered by a lot of malt. The hops ride in on a sweet wave of malt, which really mellows them out and softens them. I can taste a bit of alcohol in the second part of the sip, which ramps up the hop bitterness, but again, to use the wave analogy, it peaks quickly and then breaks on the shore and mellows.
For as sweet a beer as this tastes, it finishes pretty dry and there is a long, lingering bitterness in the back of my tongue and throat that is pleasant. This is a pleasurable beer and I wonder how much of the sweeter/mellower character comes from the wheat, too? From a practical point of view, I would classify this as an IPA or double IPA to someone who wanted to know the style, and it’s 100% West Coast hops-obsessed brewing that created it, but for a Lagunitas beer there is a glimmer of sumpin’ a little different that separates it from the rest of the pack.