Stone proved with their World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido that good beer experiences are possible in industrial parks. Lagunitas doesn’t have the same scope or sheen as Stone, but their month-old Petaluma taproom features a great tasting opportunity in a Spartan setting at ridiculously low prices.
Tony Magee started brewing beer in 1993 in his garage in the coastal NoCal town of Lagunitas. 12 years ago, he opened the brewery in Petaluma and the taproom completed the first cycle. Through it all, Lagunitas has maintained a great motto: “Beer speaks, people mumble.”
Since we wanted to try the full roster, we opted for 7-ounce tasters, a buck apiece and each cup tagged with a handwritten label. Don’t even think about finding these kinds of bargains at your local pub. The front row featured a hoppy amber 2009 Correction Ale (6.3% ABV), released in April and designed to “help remember that things go in cycles and then to help forget what you remembered.” Pils, Lagunitas’ Czech Style Pilsner (5.4% ABV) was a golden lager “brewed with loads of Saaz hops and a bottom-fermenting yeast strain that leaves it light and easy to slam.” Censored Ale (5.9% ABV) was copper-hued and malty. According to Lagunitas lore, “The name of this original ale was originally derived from an origin so heinous that we cannot reveal its aboriginal orogeny.” Completing the row: Lagunitas IPA (5.7% ABV). Lagunitas touts it as the “homicidally hopped version of the classic style,” but I found it to be noticeably bitter but still drinkable.
Hop Stoopid (8% ABV) packed the day’s most bitterness and sported a great copper color. Lagunitas literature named the best time to drink this brew: “For those mornings when you have to cut right to the chase, this is the one. Sure to blast through just about anything still lingering from the night before.” DogTown (5.9% ABV) pale ale was a malty pale ale with a hoppy finish and amber color. Lagunitas calls it “The Kronik,” but the appeal has less to do with the leaf and more to do with the toasted chocolate malt. Sonoma Farmhouse Ale (6% ABV) was the beer with the most sweetness, a malty Saison-style brew with golden color. Finally, Olde GnarlyWine clocked a whopping 12% ABV, but had great brown color and malty caramel notes.
Food is pretty much an afterthought at Lagunitas, with only hot dogs available, but with so many great restaurants in the area and beer flowing cold and crisp, it’s not really an issue.
It was a great learning opportunity to be able to taste the brewery’s roster side-by-side. My favorite Lagunitas beers were the Farmhouse Ale, Olde GnarlyWine and Hop Stoopid. Unfortunately, not all of the Lagunitas beers have wide release, but that’s one of the best reasons to visit them in Petaluma.