Richard has said that Lagunitas is one of the breweries he trusts enough to buy their beer without knowing anything about it in advance. And, in general, I trust Richard. Or perhaps I have an interest in proving his rule to be flawed. Either way, I bought a bottle of Lagunitas Hop Stoopid.
8% ABV and 102 IBUs it proclaims on the label, so it's a bit of a beast. In the small print it mentions that it's brewed using hop extract rather than real hops, for "cleaner" hop flavours with none of the vegetative mess. And from the first sniff that seems to have worked: there's an intense fresh lemon smell, turned sherbety by the generous amounts of malt.
It all takes a turn for the stoopid on tasting, however. The malt is absolutely dominant here, intensely sweet like honey or lemon curd, turning to toffee as it warms. Meanwhile the hops are merely a light perfume backdrop. It does not taste like a zingy west coast IPA, though I noted that it makes no claim to that style. And bitterness? A hundred and two bitternesses? No. I peered down the neck of the bottle and they weren't in there either.
I guess it's not a bad beer, but it tastes to me like a dodgy Belgian impression of an American IPA. I was in the mood for fresh American hops and it left me wanting.
And while that was sitting in my drafts folder I also chanced upon Lagunitas Sucks on tap in 57 The Headline. This is a multi-grain affair, including rye, oats and wheat, finishing at 7.85% ABV but once again missing a style designation. Most sources seem to regard some sort of IPA as the best category to fit it into but I'm not so sure. Though certainly pale -- a clear golden hue -- there's not much hop aroma from it, just a slight Californian buzz of dank and citrus, while the centrepiece of the flavour is heavy, sugary malt with a disconcerting caramel note that's really incongruous with the colour. The hops cavort behind this, a sticky-fingered mix of succulent fruit: nectarine, pineapple and sweet plums. It's a strange beast and I don't think it suits my tastes very well. The sheer density makes it hard work to drink and there's a dizzying back and forth between the hop kick and sickly ick.
I'm not going to write off Lagunitas completely on this showing: there have still been more hits than misses for me in the range. But these two have definitely not inspired any blind loyalty.
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