Lagunitas (sucks) — Holiday Ale/Brown Shugga’ Substitute — 7.85%

flagellant |ˈflajələnt; fləˈjelənt| noun

A person who subjects themselves or others to flogging, either as a religious discipline or for sexual gratification.

The hop fanatics at Lagunitas Brewing Company feel really, really bad about not offering their usual seasonal knock-out punch Brown Shugga’ this year, so bad that they’ve printed “We suck” on the carton and labels of their consolatory offering, a really fine double IPA billed (just in case you didn’t get the message) as Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale.

This tasty late-inning substitution pours deceptively like a pilsner, all wheat straw gold and perfunctory tight white head with very little lacing. A light carbonation suffices to lift its volatile dry-hopped aroma.

On first sip, a surprising sweetness reveals itself in the hop profile, possibly Citra closing out its incredible year by gracing yet one more great beer. An artful balance obscures the higher alcohol numbers, yet the beer does finish with some heat, which is nice for a winter seasonal.

As it warms, delicious hints of tangerine and grass develop alongside the requisite Lagunitas pine and grapefruit notes. There is a nice spice hit from the rye in the comprehensive grain bill, which also includes barley, wheat, and oats.

If an ale of this quality drives its brewers to proclaim that they “freaking munch moldy donkey butt,” then what chance to the rest of us have? If it makes them feel better, I didn’t really miss the Shugga’ this year. The Lagunitas brewers, as a rule, always respond well to having to think on their feet. Let’s hope that 2012 throws them a couple more curveballs.

Grade: A

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