Lagunitas By: Chris Wise
Currently standing at number six on the list of America’s top independent breweries, Lagunitas is looking to make the jump to the big leagues. Opened in 1993 in Lagunitas, California by Tony Magee, Lagunitas has become one of America’s favorite craft beers. With their inventive interpretations of classic brews and unique packaging scheme, Lagunitas has built its reputation around its landmark IPA and are looking to gain some new customers. Owner Tony Magee recently completed plans which will expand his brewery’s capacity by 250,000 barrels a year.
Magee managed this by purchasing the old Cinespace film studio in the Douglas Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. Opening a new brewery is nothing new for owner Tony Magee, as Lagunitas has moved locations twice before. However, Lagunitas will keep its current brewery in Petaluma, California, while opening the second location in Chicago in December, 2013. This second location will not only allow Tony to expand the brewing capacity of Lagunitas, but also cut down shipping costs to the Midwest and allow Lagunitas to reach a new market.
Owner Tony Magee explains “Shipping across deserts and mountain ranges cuts down on our profits, so adding a second location, centrally located in Chicago will help us cut down on costs.” The Chicago site will take over production and distribution to destinations from Denver to Maine and South Beach. Production in the tiny town of Petaluma had reached its limit, and Magee began to look to expand. As a native of Chicago, the move made sense not only on the spread sheet, but also in the heart of homegrown son of Chicago.
The brewery in Chicago will expand brewing capacity, cut down on shipping costs and allow the company to showcase their brews in the taproom. Lagunitas’s current taproom in their Petaluma brewery boasts a tasting of that day’s brews and some delectable munchies to fill you up while you’re exploring their expansive brew menu. Not only are good food and good beer on the menu, Lagunitas has live music in their taproom Wednesday through Sunday. What more could you ask for on a warm summer afternoon in sunny California than live music, good food, good friends, and good beer?
While it may sound like Tony Magee has been solely focused on expanding his business, he and Lagunitas have never lost sight of what makes his brewery special: the love of making good beer and enjoying that beer with good people. Lagunitas has remained active in their local community to let its customers know they appreciate all the support they have received. They do this by actively supporting charities that reach out to them on their website. All a charity has to do is submit a listing of their charity on the Lagunitas website, and Lagunitas will support them by donating a number of their brews for fundraisers. Lagunitas has supported both local and national organizations in their effort to help admirable charities.
Lagunitas makes great beers and gets involved in great charities, but they don’t let it get to their heads, and they keep pushing the boundaries of brewing. Taking one look at their labels reveals they still have a sense of humor about themselves. Their Dogtown IPA boasts how far they have come from their original IPA recipe in 1993. “This is not the original Pale Ale brewed in far away 1993…It is way better. Back then the beer tasted like broccoli and kerosene and the carbonation ate right through and drained your stomach into your gut.” At least they are honest about their journey. They renamed their Kronik brew Censored after the federal label-approving agency censored the name. They named one of their brews Lagunitas Sucks, to show they are not above poking fun at themselves. This irreverent attitude has allowed Lagunitas to continually push the boundaries of craft beer making, and in the process, become one of the most popular companies in the rapidly expanding craft beer markets.
The first seasonal Lagunitas ever put out, Lagunitas IPA has been cranking out since it was first introduced in 1995. Big on its hoppy-sweet finish, this pale ale balances the levels of malts and hops in order to create a highly-drinkable brew. Described by Lagunitas as “ruthlessly delicious and homicidally hopped for drinking enjoyment,” this IPA is the mainstay of Lagunitas for good reason.
This Czech Style Pilsner is a lighter offer from Lagunitas, boasting loads of imported Saaz hops and a bottom-fermenting yeast strain that gives the beer its smooth finish. According to the label, “”Like Adam and Eve, Isaac and Ishmael, Mao and Confucius, Good and Evil, Day and Night, Hittites and Visigoths, John and Lorena, or Groucho and Moe, Ales and Lagers are as different as can be. Still, we must love each for who they are, separately but equally, with liberty, and justice, for all. Cheers!” While Lagunitas prides itself on its year-round IPAs, this pilsner is a great change of pace.
A massively-hopped double IPA, this brew delivers on its promise to transform your state of mind. Billed as “a double-barrel dose of malt and hops guaranteed to blast right through whatever lingers from the night before,” this brew is for the more adventurous IPA drinker. The Hop Stoopid combines hop extract and oils rather than flowers, which gives the beer a stronger hop flavor.
8% ABV, 102 IBUs
Little Sumpin Sumpin
A truly unique style featuring a strong hop finish on a silky body. A filtered pale wheat ale that is great for both IPA and wheat beer fans.
First brewed in 1996, this bigger, badder version of the flagship IPA has a deeper body than the IPA. Boasting similar hops to the IPA but in much more abundance, the Maximus has a spicy finish with a lot of rose petal and increased emphasis on the hops.
8.2% ABV, 70 IBUs
A strong American ale, Brown Shugga was originally brewed in 1997 as a botched version of Old GnarlyWine Ale resulting in this dangerous brew. Packing quite a punch at 9.99% ABV, dangerously slammable, rich, roasty, and mysteriously drinkable. According to the label, “We believe this Special Ale is Something Unique. Feeding Brown Cane Sugar to otherwise Cultured Brewery Yeast is a’kin to feeding Raw Shark to your Gerbil.”
9.99% ABV, 51.1 IBUs
Originally brewed in 2011 as a Brown Shugga substitute due to construction-induced capacity issues, Lagunitas liked it so much it had to make a return trip. Lagunitas Sucks is a “cereal medley” of barley, rye, wheat and oats.
Undercover Investigation Shutdown
Brewed in remembrance of the “2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” in which the brewery was shut down for 20 days for “operating a disorderly house” after an undercover investigation by the ABC. The brew is aggressive and bitter, much the way Lagunitas felt after the investigation. A malty and rich beer with a snappy hop finish which truly defies style, Lagunitas proudly boasts, “We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.”
Little Sumpin Wild
A higher gravity seasonal version of the year-round Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. It’s made with Westmalle Trappist yeast that creates those curious phenolic off-flavors that are freakin’ everyone out these days. Massively dosed with boatloads of wheat and pale malt and finishes with a big, hoppy ending.
This Red Ale boasts a big Amarillo-hopped accent and was first brewed in 2006 to celebrate Lagunitas’ thirteenth birthday. An “ultra-mega-mondo red ale brewed to celebrate 13 years of brewing ultra-hoppy-mega-mondo ales,” the Lucky 13 is sold only in 22oz bombers.
Wilco Tango Foxtrot
Lagunitas explains the name, “We planned to release the 2010 Recovery Ale as a follow-up to our 2009 Correction Ale, but we weren’t quite recovering….WTF! So we tried to label it the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to abide by Army call-letters, but we were told that we couldn’t use the word ‘whiskey’ on a beer label…WTF!” A malty, robust big ol’ Imperial Brown Ale that’s smooth, rich, and chocolatey.
Lagunitas is distributed locally by Frank Fuhrer Wholesale.