Several years ago,
a beer-drinking friend of mine who lives in Ohio made a trip out to
California to visit relatives. When he came back, he told me great tales of
all the breweries he visited, including the classic Anchor Brewing Company
in San Francisco. The one brewery he raved most about, however, was
Lagunitas. Lagunitas, I asked? What kind of a name is that? With a name like
Lagunitas (pronounced LAH-GOO-KNEE-TUSS), I thought, it has to be
good. When I finally did get to try some of their beers, I discovered just
how good they are.
About a week ago, I received my shipment from the Micro Beer Club, in which I got two bottles each of Lagunitas IPA and Dog Town Pale Ale. I had tasted the IPA previously on several occasions, but the Pale Ale was new to me. About the same time, Andrew Smith (Andaryl) wrote an excellent review of this beer, so I was eager to try it. Andrew titled his review “Size isn't everything, some guys like being small”, and indeed Lagunitas brews a little over 17,000 barrels a year, slightly over the traditional definition of a microbrewery which is 15,000 barrels.
Still, the brewery has shown remarkable growth in its home area, and this growth ironically put it in the uncomfortable position of being pitted against other California microbrewers. This was not an act of volition; rather the Petaluma brewer was subpoenaed into court by Anheuser Busch in a bizarre turn of events in the local brewing business. Back in 1997, a group of California microbrewers sued Anheuser-Busch for restraint of trade by way of its “100% share of mind” policy. This policy attempted to influence distributors of Anheuser Busch brands to carry Anheuser Busch brands and only Anheuser Busch brands.
The plaintiffs, who included Anderson Valley Brewing and St. Stan’s Brewing, argued that this was illegal and had an adverse effect on their sales. The court battle dragged on, and in the winter of 2000 Anheuser Busch issued its subpoenas to Lagunitas and other successful small brewers, hoping that the court would interpret their growth as a sign that their policy was not detrimental to small brewers.
Despite all of this, Lagunitas has continued to brew wonderful beers like Dogtown Pale Ale. In many ways, this is a little brother to Lagunitas famous India Pale Ale. Light orange in color; the beer has a huge foamy head formation and a big citric hop nose. The palate is firm and malty, smooth and drinkable with a nicely balancing bitter finish. Not as hoppy as an IPA, but more so than most pale ales, this brew is the hopheads pale ale. I love the balance in this beer. Both malt and hops are exceptionally pronounced. The malt character is not overpowered as it is in some IPAs.
I enjoyed this beer with barbecued chicken, baked beans and coleslaw on a hot summer evening.
Update May 20, 2011: Enjoyed a mug of this wonderful pale ale on cask at Taco Mac today. Still a citrusy hoppy delight, with a chewy malt palate, soft fruitiness and a big grapefruit presence in the finish. A great beer with a plate of spicy wings, and a steal at $5.00 for a pint (or 20 ounces with my Brewniversity mug).
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.