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Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale Sucks as a Holiday Ale

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.

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Categories: Beer, review

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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58 Comments on “Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale Sucks as a Holiday Ale”

  1. December 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Boo hoo? Suck it up and drink it. 😉

    • December 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Don’t you mean bahumbug? 🙂

  2. December 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I agree that IPA’s as a winter beer are kind of odd, and this one especially. But I’d be drinking light west-coast style IPAs all year round anyway, so I don’t actually care. And I really, really liked this one. Maybe one of the best IPAs I’ve had recently, I think.

    • December 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      I agree that it’s a good beer, and a nice seasonal release. It’s just released in the wrong season.

      I drink IPAs all year long too, and I’ll enjoy the rest of this one. It’s just that Santa doesn’t belong on the label.

  3. Matthew
    December 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Disclaimer: I’ve yet to try it (I’ve only seen it one place in BC)

    That said, I’m fairly stoked to see a brewery do a “Holiday” beer that isn’t overstuffed with cloying spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Coming from the Southern Hemisphere, those flavours don’t scream Christmas to me at all.

    A local brewery here, Central City, retooled their Winter Ale this year and has faced similar criticism. Previous years’ brews have been of a more traditional ilk, but this year they decided to run with their reputation for hop forward brews and take that mentality to their Winter Ale. I love this year’s version, unreservedly. It’s a beautifully balanced 7% beer that lets the hops really shine.

    One of the great things about brewing is the interpretation of styles and given the loose guidelines of “holiday” more brewers should be straying from the norm, in my opinion.

    • December 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

      I say do whatever you want to do as a brewer to capture the spirit of the holiday in your brew. But if you brew something that doesn’t “taste” like Christmas (as subjective as that is), then don’t expect me to consider it a true holiday beer – it’s just a limited release that’s timed to the holidays.

      Christmas has a long, established history of flavors, from cloying stuff, to oranges, to candy, to plums, so there’s plenty to work with. Failing to ring true to the tastes of the holiday (again, very subjective) makes a release like Sucks ring hollow for me as a holiday beer.

      It’s a good beer and a nice release, but what’s on the label (a Santa cookie) and what’s inside the bottle don’t align – that’s my gripe here.

    • December 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      I agree. Spare me the malt, cloves and nutmeg.

      • December 5, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

        While we’re at it Norm, we’ll also spare you the cheer, the presents, and the office party sex!

        • December 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

          Thanks, Jim

          Although, I will miss the cheer.

        • December 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

          That’s my favorite part as well, although the other two certainly help me get there! 😉

  4. December 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I had the chance to try Flat 12 Bierwerks Candy Cane Porter over the weekend. It’s their usual porter base with a very mild peppermint end note. Drink it cold as soon as they pour it and you won’t taste the peppermint at all. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and it was really amazing. So different than typical holiday beers which I’m used to and enjoy.

    • December 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      That’s what I’m talking about – have fun and play with the flavors of the season. There’s tons of room for creativity and doing something unique.

      • December 5, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

        They already released Glazed Ham (porter made with Jamaican allspice and brown sugar) and Cramber (cranberry amber ale). I did not get the chance to try Cramber. I wish I had a friend named Amber, this would be her new nickname no matter what. I guess a gingerbread ale is coming up too. Sun King will be releasing Malus Pi which is made with crab apples and their take on apple pie. Last year it was too tart for me to drink an entire glass. Another brewery does a chocolate chip mint stout and I heard that someone is brewing a bourbon barrel chocolate cherry stout but I can’t remember who. These are the kind of holiday beers that I enjoy.

        For my holiday party, I’m definitely serving Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale …. because I can get it at Costco! Even non-craft beer drinkers can drink it and be “cool” or “sissy” depending on what sort of Geez you are.

        @alemonger – is Jewbelation out yet? I need to pick that up.

        • December 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

          I’m right there with you on the kinds of seasonals I like for the holidays, Tamre. These all sound awesome.

          Also, you get extra credit for using “Geez” as shorthand for macro beer supporter. I think even he’d be flattered. 🙂

        • December 5, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

          Geez has entered my nomenclature as: macro beer supporters or those who try to demean others through fallible logic of drinking macro beer. May be used as a noun or a verb.

          Noun: Even non-craft beer drinkers can drink it and be “cool” or “sissy” depending on what sort of Geez you are.

          Verb: Stop Geezing me, dude.

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

          And let’s not foget the secondary verb meaning for “Geez,” which is to blow up one’s spot or to expose one’s veiled intentions. 😉

        • Don
          December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

          Didn’t you know? Jim’s nickname is Amber! 😉

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

          Only when I wear the wig and those fuzzy boots…

  5. December 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Alert the Blogisphere! I am forced to disagree with one of my favorite and most astute craft beer bloggers this side of Al Gore’s antivirus software……

    I love it! Granted, it’s not a classic “winter holiday seasonal” along the lines of richer, heavily spiced, contemplative brews (such as Anchor’s Our Special Ale – of which I’m a huge fan of this year’s iteration), but it’s a delicious IPA. I think you hit the aromas right on the tropically fruity nose. Tons of mango and pineapple as opposed a traditionally piney, grapefruity West Coast IPA. You’re also correct on the lack of a husky malt backbone but, regardless, I think this brew works. Would I list it as one of my favorite “winter holiday/seasonals?” No. But it stands out as an impressively drinkable, fresh as a Harry & David’s gift box bounty IPA. May they suck this way throughout the year.

    And it’s not as though IPA’s are entirely foreign to the winter holiday mix. Sierra Nevada Celebration has always been a we”-balanced, crisp hoppy IPA. But what do I know? I’m a Jew. Bring on my HeBrew Glorious Jewbelation!!

    L’Chaim!
    @TheAlemonger

    • December 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

      I’m not sure we disagree, Mr. Monger. You wrote “Would I list it as one of my favorite ‘winter holiday/seasonals?’ No.” That’s exactly my point. It’s a great beer that has been released at the holidays, but it isn’t a real “holiday” brew.

      I also love the word you used for these – “contemplative.”

      L’Chaim back atchya!

      • December 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

        I was wondering if Herr Alemonger was going to chime in on this one. He brought two bottles of this beer it out for a Nuevo Latino couples dinner this past Saturday night, and while it was no Christmas Beer (to be honest, I’m not in love with this style of beer. Not yet anyway.), it was nonetheless fantastic. And as far as the mango and pineapple thing, those were his EXACT words. I was too busy feasting on a Guacamole sampler (and therefore disgusting The Alemonger’s culinary naivete) to dive too deep into the aromas, and simply enjoyed every drop.

        Cheers!
        G-LO

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

          So this beer would be great for Cinco de Mayo? Sounds about right to me…

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

          You might be on to something.

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

          I know my mangos

  6. Don
    December 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I think this might b a difference between East and West coasts, and their expectations for winter seasonals. West coast tends to be hoppier, and IPAish, and the East coast seasonals are more malty and have more of that seasonal flavor you like Jim. In my book there is room for both. You know you’re pretty close minded for a liberal! 😉

    • December 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Way to totally dis the “fly-over” states (as you elitists refer to them) there east-coast/west-coast boy!

      • Don
        December 5, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

        Whatevs. Nothin’ ever happens there anyway. 😉

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

          Ho boy…

        • December 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

          So true. 😉

        • December 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

          No, nothing happens here, just the craft beer revolution.

          I think it would be better to classify it as Western (not just the coast) full-bodied style and East Coast wimpy style. Not all, but quite a few East Coast breweries seem like they’re afraid to take it to the next level and just go the easy route. 😉

      • Don
        December 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

        I guess Will when I think of west I included Denver. Anywhere with mountains over 8000 feet is included in my book. 😉

  7. Kid Carboy Jr.
    December 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    We don’t even have Christmas here in Illinois.

    I hear it’s nice.

    • December 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      It’s a lot like Easter, but with better presents…

  8. Mathew
    December 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Last time I checked there is no Lagunitas on the shelves in Colorado. Which I am kind of disappointed with that. Im hoping that they can resolve the alleged distributor issue with C.R. Goodman. Hopefully soon so I can try this one.

    But what if it is a similar issue to Brown Shugga and they just dont have enough beer to distribute to Colorado until the expansion is complete.

    • December 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Maybe by the time Sucks hits your shelves it’ll be warm enough outside to make sense drinking it. 🙂

    • December 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Have you tried Argonaut, Morgan’s, or Joy liquors? I’m fairly sure I just saw it at Argonaut the other day. That is presupposing that you’re in Denver.

  9. Wayne
    December 5, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    It sounds perfectly alright for a seasonal release to me, even though I prefer bo0cks, ports and stouts this time of year. And you already know how I feel about tall those flavored beers–makes me wanta say Geez!

  10. Wayne
    December 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Firstly, it sounds perfectly alright for a seasonal release to me, even though I prefer bocks, ports and stouts this time of year.

    Secondly, you already know how I feel about all those heavily flavored beers.

    Lastly, perhaps folks in the midsection of the country (places like Chicago for instance–you remember guys, the place where you were born), don’t feel the need to limit themselves to a type. They’ll drink what they feel like drinkin’ w/o worrying about arbitrary labels.

  11. Wayne
    December 5, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Testing…1…2…3

    • December 6, 2011 at 10:34 am #

      Sorry, Wayne – the spam filter was going nuts for a bit there!

  12. johnking82
    December 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Way to embrace diversity during the Holidays, Jim. Jim is a beer racist and hates America.

    • Don
      December 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      …And that pretty well sums it up.

      • December 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

        Go ahead and hate, hater.

    • December 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

      I’m a beer purist who loves Christmas is more like it.

      BTW, Don is a bear fetishist who loves whiskey, if we’re keeping score…

      • johnking82
        December 6, 2011 at 8:28 am #

        Don’t try and throw Don under the bus, Grinch.

        • December 6, 2011 at 10:30 am #

          Nobody puts Baby in the corner, huh?

  13. December 5, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    What’s the matter with freebasing pines?

    • December 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      Visit the North Pole. Talk to the elves. Visit the rehab clinics. Look at they way they’ve ground down their teeth jonesing for pine. Then ask the question again.

      Hermey can barely keep up with fixing all the teeth!

  14. December 5, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    I wonder if it’s a coincidence their interpretation of a holiday seasonal is very similar to Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, which you have also been very vocal about regarding its lack of holiday flavor. I bet this has more to do with testing the market for a seasonal dIPA (small D because it’s not really a DIPA) than it does with their capacity in the brewhouse.

    • December 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

      I think it fit into their production framework and didn’t require the bandwidth something like Shugga requires, but I’m sure they are paying attention to sales. If it’s a hit, why not do both?

      • December 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

        I don’t know, Jim. The recipe doesn’t call for any special process or equipment. I can’t help but think this was calculated. My guess is there was a shortage or significant price increase on one of the ingredients in Brown Shugga or Brown Shugga hasn’t sold well in the recent past and they want to test a new offering.

  15. December 5, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    You might get after the folks at Triple Rock and Beachwood BBQ Breweries then. They have invited homebrewers to collaborate with them on Julian Shrago’s (the Brewermaster at Long Beach’s Beachwood BBQ) Laurel IPA. They’re asking homebrewers to brew some Laurel IPA and bring it to Triple Rock or Beachwood on December 22.

    I guess nothing says the holidaze in California in the same way an IPA does.

    What’s the number for the rehab?

  16. Barry
    December 5, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Fear not Coloradan’s…you will have Lagunitas Sucks soon enough…second to last post on this thread is from Tony Magee, founder/owner of Lagunitas. Should clear up your questions on the status of Lagunitas in CO.

    http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/4179289

    You can also read straight from the source the reason that you can enjoy (or not enjoy) Lagunitas Sucks this holiday season on this BA forum…

    http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/4108519#4109241

    Cheers!

  17. Dalri
    December 5, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Yes, it is a really good DIPA. However, I was doing a holiday ale session at Howie & Son’s Pizza with about 10 seasonals on tap, and this guy barging in the middle of the tasting threw everything off. Thankfully, Delirium Noel sweetened me right back up, only to have Anchor Steams OCA2011 (i.e. varnish, and it just sucks$ destroy my face right after. Frustrating night.

    • December 5, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

      A flight of 10 holiday beers can’t be THAT frustrating! Did you think the Sucks was a bona fide holiday beer, or just a nice DIPA that happens to have Santa on the label?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Today’s Links « Thirsty Reveler - December 6, 2011

    […] Doesn’t Suck The Beer and Whiskey Brothers talk about the recent holiday release from Lagunitas, The Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale. Saying it’s […]

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