Lagunitas Brewing Company
Mark from Lagunitas came to the Growler & Gill, presented the beers and told some stories, making for an interesting tasting. The brewery was founded in 1993, exists in Petaluma CA, and has expanded to Chicago IL. According to Mark, all the beers in the tasting were from Chicago. Let me digress for a moment to a quote from lagunitas.com:
We all loved the beer but the mission was larger than the ordinary joy of a hoppy-sweet quaff. It was driven unseen by an urge to communicate with people, to find our diasporidic tribe, and to connect with other souls adrift on a culture that had lost its center and spun its inhabitants to the four winds to wander lost and bereft with a longing to re-enter the light. Beer, we have learned, has always been a good lubricant for social intercourse!
If you don’t understand what that means, clearly you need to drink more Lagunitas!
Their recipe uses Saaz hops to be true to the original. Apparently this is one of only two of their products that use imported hops. (I forgot to ask what the other one is.) The Pils has no nose to speak of. It delivers crisp, light malt, then some bitterness comes in. Lightly fizzy. More hoppy than the typical pils, probably more Saaz hops than is traditional. Well, there is European tradition and there is Petaluma tradition. The Pils has a dry dusty finish. The website notes that it is their only lager. 6.2% ABV.
Yes, there really is a Dogtown, in Marin County, and there’s a light amber APA leading with a hoppy bouquet of flowers and pine. There is slight butter in the nose but this is distinctly NOT an off aroma. The flavor is hops & caramel & hops & malt, then the finish carries on the hops. Maybe this is a little one dimensional but I like it a lot. This is called “pale ale” but it is hoppier than many IPA. 6.1% ABV
Pours amber with a light head. The nose is sweet with orangy hops, quite mild, with a hint of tobacco. The taste is nice honey malt with strong balanced hops. Bitterness drives finish, but with finesse, citrus and floral. 6.2% ABV
This is a red ale with a lightly sour nose and a nice copper color. It seems “sessionable” but comes in at 5.7% ABV so some caution is advised. My palette found yeast and cracker and topped with moderate hops. It has a pleasant finish with hint of sour over malt with citrus and resin hops coming on. One-off, unfortunately, so you may not be able to find this.
Mark told the Saga of the Undercover Shutdown. Back in 2004-2005, the brewery hosted weekly parties that were apparently really excellent parties. Lagunitas supplied the beer, but it’s northern California, and some of the locals brought interesting botanicals to the party. The ABC hoped to catch the brewery selling pot and sent in undercover agents. What they found: sharing yes,selling no. Frustrated, the ABC came back on St Patrick’s Day and someone carelessly shared a massive joint with some undercover agents and was busted. The brewery was charged with operating a “Disorderly House” and could have been shut down permanently. Fortunately Lagunitas had good lawyers who didn’t smoke pot and reduced the penalty to a 20 day suspension. It’s not trivial to lose 20 days of production and distribution, but it’s survivable, so of course they produced a beer to commemorate the event. As it happens, each beer label has to be approved by the very same ABC. They did. Out of this came the Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, with the slogan: “We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.” No, it wasn’t poured tonight, more’s the pity, but the story is fun. I’ve had this in the past and it was very good, but I don’t have it at hand to review.
However, I did bring a few bottles home to continue my review.
This pours with a frothy white head over clear light amber. The hoppy nose is on citrusy side with pine, followed by complex flavors weaving malt and hops, a nice mouthfeel and a little tingle, perhaps the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. The finish is nicely bitter. 64 IBU, 7.5% ABV
This has less head but in a light tan, over a similar color. The nose is hoppy but much more malty than the Sumpin’ Sumpin’. In the mouth there’s smooth malt, earthy, with a hint of cream. The finish is somehow milder than its (slightly) weaker cousin. 64 IBU, 8.5% ABV.
This poured with a full inch of sand colored head over clear amber, quite a persistent head. Intense floral pine hop nose, with malt building in the aroma. It delivers a solid smooth hop/malt blend. It has nice mouthfeel and some caramel comes in. Bitterness sets in on the finish but surprisingly moderate. This has lots of hops but enough backbone to carry it.
Let’s wrap up with a profound quote lurking on the labels:
“Life is uncertain. Don’t sip.”