Let’s be clear from the outset – I won’t ever be wishing anyone “hoppy holidays.” It’s not that I don’t like hops – sometimes they call to me, especially when I have an Avery Maharaja chilling in the fridge. But hops and holidays don’t mix in my book. This time of year I want big malty beers, barrel aged goodies, honeyed-up ales and Belgian fare, not double IPA’s.
So you can imagine my reaction to Lagunitas’s Sucks Holiday Ale, a fruity imperial IPA with an ABV of 7.6% and a huge hop kick. It’s a very good beer, but unless your holiday tradition includes freebasing pine sap, this hop bomb won’t have you crooning White Christmas.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Lagunitas calls Sucks a temporary replacement for their “Brown Shugga,” which has a more traditional holiday flavor profile. Unfortunately, Lagunitas doesn’t have the capacity to brew Brown Shugga until their new brew house is completed in January, so they have offered up Sucks in its place. They call it “Sucks” as their way of saying “we suck” for not getting Brown Shugga on the shelves this year. I wouldn’t go that far, because on its own merits, Sucks doesn’t suck at all – it’s a pretty nice double IPA.
It pours a golden orange with lots of carbonation wiggling up from the bottom of the glass. The nose is a festival of fruit, with exotic scents of pineapple and mango mixing with grapefruit and pine. Taking a sip, Sucks reminds me of my beloved Avery Maharaja at the outset, but it lacks that beer’s biscuity spine in the middle – this one’s all jam, very little bread. The finish is pure hop madness, when citrus and pine flavors come crashing down on your palate. All and all, a lovely, fruity hop bomb that would be perfect for Christmas in July, but one I found unmoving as part of Christmas in December.
In the end, I will wind up drinking and enjoying the other five bottles that came in my six pack of Sucks. But unlike Mad Elf or Celebrator Dopplebock or Great Divide Hibernator or any of my other favorite seasonal treats, this beer does nothing to make me feel closer to the magic of the season, which to my mind is the whole reason holiday beers exist. As a holiday beer, I agree with Lagunitas – this one Sucks.