The Better Bitter Beer


Over the past few years, the IPA has rolled through the craft beer industry like a bitter steamroller, crushing everything in its path with its floral hoppiness. Nearly every brewery we know of offers at least one example of the hoppy style, and brewers are tripping over themselves to offer ever newer twists, from Double IPAs and Belgian IPAs to black IPAs and heritage ones. And, of course, the wheat IPA.

Petaluma, California-based Lagunitas first introduced its curiously named A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale as a seasonal offering in the spring of 2009. “Our idea wasn’t to make a wheat IPA, but to make a hoppy wheat beer,” company founder Tony Magee explains. “We first made it in the depths of the recession, figuring everybody could use a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.” Questionable naming aside, beer drinkers were as ready to drink the concoction as Lagunitas was to sell it, and soon breweries began offering it year-round.

Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ pours a straw yellow color with a rocky white head and tropical hop aromas waft thickly out of the glass. It’s crisp and surprisingly light for a beer that packs a 7.5-percent alcohol kick. The bright, citrusy, juicy-fruit hop flavors marry nicely with the wheat malt. In terms of bitterness, it’s firm, but not so intense that it overwhelms the light wheat character. “We found that there was a weird fruitiness from a wheat fermentation,” Magee explains, “and it got really interesting when combined with low astringency American hops.”

Hoppy beers tend to lose their pungent flavors and aromas over time, so we recommend drinking them while they’re fresh. We’re happy to report that we’ve never had a bottle last longer than a week, and have yet to encounter a bad one. []