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In a hoped-for move that has had beer lovers drooling for months, Lagunitas Brewing Company has announced (UPDATE: they apparently said this a while ago) will make their summer seasonal IPA, A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, into a year-round offering. It didn’t take long; the beer’s upgrade to the full-time roster comes just two summers after its debut in 2009, when we gave it our first taste. The year-round brew — same beer but a slightly updated label — will arrive in most markets in October, when the summer seasonal run is over.
This will make many drinkers happy, including me — Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ranked 3rd out of my Top 5 Beers of 2009. It’s an incomparably juicy IPA, with quenching, fruity bursts of gooseberry and green grape. The fruitiness is thanks to Nelson Savuin hops from New Zealand, a variety that has come into vogue recently, also featured in beers such as Anchor Humming Ale.
But if I get my druthers, the spread of Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ will spur a new trend in brewing: the wheat IPA. That’s what makes Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ work so well — the beer’s tart, thirst-quenching wheat balances out the honeyed sweetness and adds a spicy counterpoint to the fruity hops. Really, it’s a surprise the style hasn’t spread already. Wheat beers and hoppy beers are both thirst-quenching; why not combine them?
And — and forgive me for getting ahead of myself here — if thirsty beer lovers are rewarded and “wheat IPA” does become a Hot New Style, it would follow the recent trends of American breweries coining new types of IPA. Last year gave us a bevy of Belgian IPAs, with high hop doses tempered by busy, nose-tickling Belgian yeast. This year begot black IPAs (or whatever you call them), which fuse citrus hop notes with heavily roasted malts. Will wheat IPAs be next?