It has arrived. Crisp air, the occasional rain shower, playoff baseball, and new taps in various downtown Davis locations. I got a notice that the Grad was tapping a number of new beers as well as showing baseball games on a monstrous screen, so I couldn’t resist. There is nothing I appreciate more than tasting a new beer and rooting for the Yankees to lose. (Check that, I actually would rather root for my beloved Red Sox to win, but alas, this wasn’t the year for that so I’m relegated to cheering against the Yankees. Coincidentally, the beer for this week nicely blunts the effect of not having the Sox in the playoffs.)
The new tap that interested me the most was from one of my favorite West Coast breweries – Lagunitas. A number of friends of mine had recently encouraged me to try the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ brew from Lagunitas – a seasonal summer wheat beer released in July. I liked it, then found out that this fall the good folks at Lagunitas released what they called a “big sister” of the aforementioned beer. This one they called, “Little Sumpin’ Wild Ale.” The Wild was on tap at the Grad, there was a late-afternoon playoff baseball game on, so I ordered a pint and settled in to boo the Yankees.
“Big sister” is the right way to put it for the Little Sumpin’ Wild. It’s definitely related to, looks and tastes like their Little Sumpin Sumpin, but is certainly bigger as the ABV’s attest (nearly 8% compared to 7%). It pours a nice orange color with a frothy head, but like a bowl of pipe tobacco, its the aroma that hits you first. It has decidedly fruity scents to it, especially for a fall beer, but hints of spice also come through to give it that Belgian flair and thus apparently, the fall feel. That Belgian yeast sets it apart from the summer issue which has the same drinkability of a wheat beer, the intense hoppiness, and all the citrus scents that make you think summer. Don’t let the sweet fool you, however. It’s more like smelling apricots and grapefuit in the aroma of the beer than it is like the rash of lagers trying to cram a pseudo fruity taste down your throat (think Budlight Lime).
It is still certainly sweet smelling, even tasting, but has a strong alcohol finish and those hops are all the way forward – which is pretty typical for a Lagunitas beer. Those who don’t care for hop-forward beers simply won’t like most of the Lagunitas offerings, and I know some of you Davis-Lager purists would consider this beer over your hop limit. For others of us, however, this is a real nice addition to our already over-hopped palettes. (The good news is that if you do like it, this beer is available in more than just draught. It has already been spotted in bottles at various Nugget locations and the Co-Op.)
There is something unique about this beer that I can’t quite place. It drinks like a summer beer with its smooth “wheaty-esque-ish-ness,” (as they describe the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ on their website), but the Belgian yeast brings in that spicy flair and the alcohol content is certainly for cooler weather. It’s a great beer to point to if you have friends that harass you for only drinking IPA’s. You can say things like, “No way, I also like a wheaty, Belgian sort of beer.” Just don’t let them taste it, because they’ll call you a hypocrite and claim this is just an IPA with clever labeling. So its a wheaty-Belgianish-high-hop-so-it-tastes-like-a-West-Coast-IPA sort of beer. Got it?
In that way, it feels like that perfect transition from summer to fall – like baseball moving into the playoffs or long sleeves and shorter days. And maybe that is exactly what it is – a beer for the transition from one season to the next, getting us all ready to warm up with stouter brews and leave behind our refreshing summer wheat beers. If that is the case, Little Sumpin Wild might be one of those beers I look for each year around this time to prove the seasons are changing. Hopefully next year I’m drinking it at the Grad while watching the Red Sox in October instead. That would make it perfect.