Some breweries just get it. Every distributed brewery has a marketing department of some kind. Judging by the amount of beer available at any given beverage center (back in Buffalo, they call them party stores) it’s no easy task to make sure you stand out from the crowd. I mean, I’ll occasionally buy a beer because its label looks cool. I’m no more oblivious to bright colors and fancy scripts as the next guy. I’ll buy based on style of beer more than anything, but breweries have to know I’m spending upwards of a half hour looking up and down at the same shelves hoping I’ll notice their brand. There’s always a different school of thought in how they get you to look their way. There is the big-swinging-dick approach, where places like Stone Brewery more or less question your manhood by daring you to try one of their beers. There’s the fancy swirling art motif employed by places like Pretty Things, and is likely the only reason anyone ever buys Magic Hat in the first place. There is the classic straight forward approach bigger breweries use like Sam Adams or Long Trail. Then there is Lagunitas. They are a mash-up of everything. Funky names, fancy labels, plain labels, but most of all a sense of humor. Beer is supposed to be fun. Take for instance their seasonal six pack offering, Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale.
The California-based brewery usually has the capacity to release one of their fabled holiday seasonal ales Brown Shugga’. Brown Shugga’ comes with the back story of when while brewing their January seasonal release Gnarly Wine, too much sugar was added to the batch. The flavor deviated so much, but in the best way possible. They decided to release it special for the December seasonal that year, and has continued to do so every December…until this one. This year instead of brewing Brown Shugga’, we get Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale (Brown Shugga’ Substitute.) The name is a tongue-in-cheek jab at themselves since they must have been anticipating a backlash over the failure to brew a very popular seasonal. The result is what they’ve been calling a “cereal-medley” of barley, rye, wheat, and oats. In layman’s terms, what we have is a one-off IPA that really showcases the West coast style pretty well. If you’re familiar with Firestone Walker’s Union Jack IPA, this is an incredible comparison. There’s a lovely fruity aroma and a very bright yellow, clear pour. This isn’t as explosive on the palate as other stronger IPAs, especially for a rather sizable 7.85% alcohol by volume. This won’t be around much longer, so be sure to pick some up. That it won’t be an occurring annually might be the only thing that sucks about this beer.