To Craft, or Not to Craft?

The Lagunitas Brewing Company

Petaluma Calif. & Chicago Ill.

Here you have a brewery with a unique outlook on beer–I mean life–no, I mean beer and life. This is reflected by their bottle copy, as in the case of Equinox:

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe Gnoe would be different. Phish might phyl, daugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour qreem and cheaze leavings. And then their’d bea the spelling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thinq of itt, Ehe think aya cood stand beain a liddle bit hapier wrie gnau… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aah! Once again all is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it.

Now *you* try getting that paragraph past autocorrect!!!! After that, I need a beer, no, several.


Light amber in the glass with a moderate foamy head, heavily lacing the glass. Delivers an aroma of massive if restrained hops: pine and citrus. On the palette there is bready toasty malt and a wave of hops, basically in balance. This is a canonical American IPA, almost defining the style, with a Iong balanced finish. It’s not moderate, it has lots of everything but in great proportions. 6.2% ABV, 51.5 IBU

PILS Tap StickerPils

This is their only lager, straw colored with a medium white head. The aroma is a light lager with noble hops, specifically Saaz. It’s nicely effervescent in the mouth with caramel notes and a bigger shot of hops. The finish continues biscuit malt and hops. Definitely a Czech style pilsener. 6.2% ABV, 35 IBU


Here you have a beer that was going to be called Kronik, with label to match. Did you know that beer names have to be approved by the government? In this case I think that California accepted the name, but the federal BATF rejected it, claiming that it was some sort of marijuana reference. Lagunitas stuck a “Censored” sticker over the label, resubmitted it, and this was accepted. It pours medium coppery amber with a brief off white head. The nose starts with crisp bready malt and then a ton of caramel comes in. The flavor is slightly sweet with a whiskey note and a long malty finish. It has plenty of hops but very balanced. 6.8% ABV, 39 IBU

Fusion 31, Mozango

Unique, this is a wheat IPA with mango and distinctive Mosaic hops. It pours light amber with a medium lacy white head. This is followed by a beautiful fruity-sweet hop nose. It’s a great IPA with a luscious hint of mango. Starts super smooth and lingers on the finish with a sustained hint of fruit. I fear this is a one-off, draft only, so I sadly don’t expect to have it again. Maybe if we whine and get the sympathy of the Lagunitas dog? 8.9% ABV


Pours amber and effervescent with a generous yellowish head. The aroma starts with a brief zizz of yeast then bready malt with a hint of caramel and a subtle note of toast, wrapping up with plenty of blended hops. The mouthfeel is foamy with more caramel in the flavor deepening toward molasses and earthy hops, then building to a balanced sweet malt and bitter hop finish that lingers a long time. They call it “A Genuine Pale Oat Ale” and it’s similar to a hefeweizen with darker malt and more hops. Good, very complex stuff. 8.0% ABV 50 IBU

lagLittleSumpinLittle Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

Amber-gold in the glass with a generous bubbly ivory head. Citrus hops arrive as soon as the cap comes off. Up close there’s a medley of cracker and cara malt with lots more hops. The mouthfeel is medium and the flavor leads with hops, crisp and smooth over a solid malt base. The finish is fairly bitter but clearly aroma hops are enphasized, then flavor and finally bittering. 7.5% ABV 64.20 IBU however you measure twenty one-hundredths of an IBU.

lagSucksLagunitas Sucks

The Brown Shugga’ Substitute Ale, this pours medium amber with a frothy off white head. Estery aroma of stone fruit and biscuit malt leads to a slightly peppery hop note. The flavor starts with a melon and brown sugar tone–I know it’s not Brown Suggah–and a complex malt body from four different kinds of grain. The finish isn’t very long but displays fruit and sugar with balancing hops. 8.0% ABV 63.21 IBU (and that last 0.01 IBU makes all the difference!)

lagImpPilsImperial Pils

Clear straw color with a moderate Snow White head yields a pretty glass of beer. Noble hops lead the nose with lots of biscuit malt and perhaps a hint of yeast. This delivers very crisp flavor to start, moderate effervescence, then that biscuit builds in followed by a wave of hops. Classic hops, but significantly more so than a classic pilsener (the spelling Lagunitas chose for the bottle copy.) There is slight heat to the long, crisply bitter finish. 8.6% ABV 57 IBU


This is a glassful of amber with a full ragged lemon cream head. The nose starts with a deep earthy hop aroma, a mix of spice & citrus & pine with a ton of bready malt and a hint of toast. Very effervescent with medium full mouthfeel leading into that massive malt with continuing earthy hops. All is in balance between malt and hops so that it’s quite smooth for the firepower. The finish carries all of this smoothly into the sunset. 8.2% ABV, 72.41 IBU.

BrownSuggahBrown Shugga’

We had the substitute, here’s the original! Pours with a pretty 1″ light tan head over amber. It has a strongly hopped nose with a touch of sweetness, then creamy foam on the palette, malty and slightly sweet and something like a Belgian yeastiness. The finish is much sweeter than the hoppiness of the nose, ending in great balance. Nice stuff, stealthy strong. No wonder they sucked when they failed to produce this! 9.9% ABV, 51 IBU

Imperial WheatWine Tap StickerScare City #4 Wheat Wine

This is light amber with a brief white head. The rich bakery malt nose has a hint of caramel. The maltiness continues into an equally rich flavor of peaches and caramel, but not at all sweet. It has a fairly full mouthfeel with a hint of creaminess. The finish is long, malty, and smooth with hops around the edges. The size and balance of the beer masks the actual bitterness. 9.7% ABV, 75.5 IBU

They asked, “Qan you imagine a world without Beer?” Well, can you imagine a world without Craft Beer? During the tasting, Lagunitas was a craft beer, but now it isn’t, by the definition of the Brewers Association. You see, to be “craft” you have to be independent. Days after this tasting, Heineken bought 50% of Lagunitas. Great was the Sturm und Drang of online reaction, ranging from a knee-jerk “It’s the end of the world, Lagunitas is ruined” to my opinion, “Good beer is good beer” even if the owner is a macro brewer of yellow suds. It’s interesting that Heineken did NOT buy a majority share, leaving considerable room for Lagunitas to continue to innovate and to continue to produce Good Damn Beer. For now I’ll give them–and the dog–the benefit of the doubt!
lagPale Ale Tap Sticker

Pils, Wheat, and Pale images courtesy of Lagunitas Brewing
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