Lagunitas Brewing Company – Petaluma, CA

Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, CA. - Courtesy of Herb Lingl Aerial Archives.
Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, CA. – Courtesy of Herb Lingl Aerial Archives.

Founded in 1994 by Tony Magee, Lagunitas Brewing Company has rapidly grown to what is now, according to the Brewers Association, the sixth largest craft brewery and thirteenth largest overall brewer in the United States (based on 2012 sales volume).  My wife and I visited the Lagunitas tap-room and “beer sanctuary” located adjacent to the brewery on a Sunday afternoon for lunch.  As we arrived in an area that was an industrial park, Lagunitas employees were in the street directing the heavy traffic of customers to facilitate visitor parking.

The “beer sanctuary” is Lagunitas’ American version of a German Beer Garden.  Customers with diverse backgrounds filled long rows of wooden, community-shared picnic tables.  Customer interaction was a key aspect of enjoying a visit here.  We met regulars and first time visitors.

Lagunitas Brewing Company – Petaluma Photos

 

Lagunitas
Rows of wooden picnic tables provide community-style seating and encourage customer interaction.

 

Families enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Families enjoy the festive atmosphere.

 

Families and pets also lounged or played on a grassy hill bathed in sunlight.

Lagunitas
A grassy hill is perfect for carefree lounging.

 

Pets are welcome.
Pets are welcome.

 

A band played music for all to enjoy.  The large crowd of enthusiastic customers provided a clear indication of the success of this layout and venue.

A band played lively music.
A band played lively music.

 

Brewery operations continue unobserved on the other side of the building.
Brewery operations continue unobserved on the other side of the building.

 

Food and beer were available.  Lagunitas produces about eight year-round beers as well as several seasonal or special-release beers.  Beers are generally served in a mason jars.  You can also get beer samplers.  I chose samplers to maximize my beer tasting experience.  My tasting notes follow.

 

Beer samplers are available for a modest price.
Beer samplers are available for a modest price.

 

Beer samplers provide an opportunity to try a wide range of Lagunitas beers.
Beer samplers provide an opportunity to try a wide range of Lagunitas beers.

 

Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ American Pale Wheat Ale (7.5% ABV):  This beer is a filtered pale wheat ale that includes a strong hop presence.  A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ pours a light gold color with active bubbling and thick off-white foam that leaves a nice lace.  The beer has a strong, hop-induced grapefruit aroma.  A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is medium-bodied with mild carbonation.  The beer starts with wheat and pale malt flavors that are rapidly enhanced with pine resin, grapefruit, and apricot.  A peppery spice enters, followed by a crisp dry finish with a lingering hops bitterness that is well-integrated and delightful.  A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is hugely delicious and absolutely refreshing.

Lagunitas Maximus India Pale Ale (8.2% ABV): Maximus leverages additional hopping to create a bolder version of Lagunitas’ regular IPA.  This beer pours a clear amber golden color with off-white foam that leaves a nice trail of lace.  Maximus has a predominately pine resin aroma with background of grapefruit and malt.  The beer is medium-bodied.  Maximus has a strong pine and peppery flavor with a semi-dry finish and assertive hops bitterness.  Maximus is a hops powerhouse and two or three of these could put you on your gluteus maximus. 

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale (8% ABV): This beer pours a clear copper gold color with off-white foam and nice trailing lace.  Hop Stoopid is massively dry-hopped which results in strong aromas of pine resin and grapefruit.  The beer is medium-bodied with moderate and prickly carbonation.  Hop Stoopid had a rich sweet malt flavor, backed by grapefruit, grapefruit pith, and pine resin.  The beer has a semi-dry finish with lingering hops bitterness.  I thought Hop Stoopid was very good.

Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild (8.7% ABV): Made with Westmalle Trappist yeast, Little Sumpin’ Wild is a higher gravity seasonal version of the year-round Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale.  This beer pours a clear gold color with active bubbling and off-white foam that leaves a nice lace.  Little Sumpin’ Wild has a mild biscuit aroma with background of hay/straw and with bouquet of grapefruit and papaya.  The beer is medium-bodied with mild, smooth carbonation.  Little Sumpin’ Wild’s flavors are definitely influenced by the Belgian yeast strain.  Malt biscuit flavor is accompanied with hay/straw and a peppery spice.  The beer has a dry finish with lingering peppery spice and integrated hops bitterness.  Little Sumpin’ Wild was wildly delicious and proof positive of the benefits of Belgian-American international relations.

Lagunitas Farmhouse Saison-style (6% ABV): Made with Belgian yeast, Farmhouse Saison pours a hazy straw-gold color with off-white foam and nice lace.  The beer has a biscuit malt aroma accompanied with straw/hay and light citrus.  Farmhouse is light-bodied with mild, prickly carbonation.  The beer has a biscuit malt flavor with integrated straw and floral notes.  A peppery finish is followed by a grapefruit pith and tart lingering aftertaste.  However, the flavors just didn’t come together in harmony for me.  I was let down by this Saison-style attempt.  Belgian-American international relations just hit a bump in the road.

Lagunitas Gueuze (9% ABV): Let me just start by saying that I love sour/tart beers and that gueuze is one of my favorite beer styles when well executed (God bless Cantillon Brewery).  That said, I’m sorry to say that something was terribly wrong with the liquid served to me.  My guess is that a bacterial infection took over the batch.  I’m still reeling with disbelief from this horrible experience and hope it was a fluke that others will not encounter. ‘Nuff said, get me out of here.

Lagunitas Rye-Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout (12+% ABV): Coffee beans from nearby Sebastopol’s Hardcore Coffee are freshly ground and added to the brew kettle and whirlpool to make this stout.  The version I sampled was also aged in rye bourbon barrels.  Rye-Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout pours a deep black color with a reddish hue and tan foam that leaves a magnificent lace down the glass.  The beer has a wonderful and amazing aroma of coffee, chocolate, raisins, figs, bourbon, and rye that overlay a sweet malt background.  Rye-Barrel Aged Cappuccino Stout is full-bodied, rich, and creamy with a mildly prickly carbonation.  The beer tastes of sweet caramel malt followed with rye to balance out the sweetness.  Subtle espresso coffee, dark fruit, and chocolate flavors create a complex backdrop.  A rye bourbon finish is accompanied with lingering alcohol warmth.  This is a world-class beer that had me percolating with joy.

Lagunitas Lucky 13 American Red Ale (8.65% ABV):  Lucky 13 pours a clear amber-red color with active bubbling and beige foam.  The beer has a sweet malt aroma that included honey followed with a bouquet of pine resin, grapefruit, and lemon.  Lucky 13 is medium-bodied with moderate and prickly carbonation.  The beer has a sweet malty caramel flavor (there’s that honey again) with a great integration of hops-induced pine resin and grapefruit.  Toasted brown bread, nuts, and some peppery spice are prevalent in the semi-dry finish with mild hops bitterness.  The alcohol is well-integrated.  This is an outstanding beer that malt lovers should embrace.

Overall we really enjoyed the environment and ambiance of the Lagunitas “beer sanctuary”.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised and disappointed in one of the beers served to me, creating a definite disturbance in my personal sanctuary.  The good news is that most of the beers were delicious.

 

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