Lagunitas are one of the most recent American breweries to reach the Irish market, and one with a pretty good reputation for fresh, hoppy beers.
OK, maybe we shouldn't be looking to Petaluma for our fresh hop fix, but they nevertheless warrant at least a try, especially considering these were relatively fresh, for Irish standards.
I started with
Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter Lagunitas IPA, a clear, bright orange affair with pleasantly sharp and zesty notes on the nose to begin with. It's brimming with the grapefruit and pine that you so commonly expect from this style, along with some pithy and slightly sugary orange. This is all much the same to taste, being rather clean and carrying a slightly gristy, biscuity malt backbone. I shit you not, there is a even a back-of-the-mouth, base-of-the-tongue tingling that puts me in mind of the coriander note of a wit, but it's never more than a suggestion; citrus rules the day, the IPA delivers as an IPA and everyone's happy. I mean, we could be happier, but still.
Little Sumpin' has almost the exact same thing going on the aroma; pine, peel, pith, citrus fruit with flesh'n'all. Where it really sets itself apart is of course the flavour, which is jam-packed with mango, mandarin and sweet orange marmalade - tons of the fruity stuff. Despite a bit of a spike of heat, the malt backbone never steps into the heavy toffee side of things; just pale, cereal grain straying into caramel, allowing candied citrus fruit to supply the main sweet undertones to the light, waxy orange skin bitterness throughout. Better than the IPA if you're choosing.
I skipped the Dogtown Pale Ale, opting instead for Hop Stoopid. Yes, just a week after shelling out the big bucks for a single bottle of Two Hundred Fathoms I decided to do it yet again on a large bottle of imported US IPA, a beery risk if ever there was one. I was rewarded with a sharp and bold nose that was yet again full of orange and grapefruit skin pithiness and a candied citrus fruit backing. There's a more tropical side to this one too, maybe pineapple or melon, but both complement a piney, honeyish bittersweet mix at the core. Bittersweet is probably the best way to describe the beer in brief; sharp lime and orange zest, pine needles, orange marmalade and a sugary, overripe fruit thing. This is not to suggest the beer is over sweet or balanced to the point of boredom - there's plenty for the hophead to enjoy, in both expressive fruit character and tangible perceived bitterness on the palate. Surprisingly, this was worth the €8.49.
Unsurprisingly, it was the best of the three.