Lagunita’s Tasting

On March 20, 2013,  I attended an event held at Against the Grain (now named Radicle Effect Brewerks) located at 1340 31st Street in Rock Island, Illinois. Just a few months shy of their first-year anniversary, Against the Grain (or, as the kids around town call it, “AG”) is a nano brewery already known for its access to great draft beers and an ever-growing selection of bottled beer. On this particular evening, they were advertising a “Buy the Pint, Steal the Jar” event featuring Lagunitas Brewing Company’s wares.

 Lagunitas Brewing Company was started by Tony Magee in 1993 out in Lagunitas, California, but outgrew the first location within a year and now they brew in Petaluma, California. Currently they’re producing just over 100,000 barrels a year and opening up a new 250-barrel brew house with 600,000-barrel capacity soon, in Chicago. So us folks in the QCA won’t be complaining about not being able to get Sucks around here anymore. (Especially since I heard a rumor that it’s going to year-round availability!)

 The event at AG started at 6pm so I got there at 4:30 to ensure a spot at the bar. I’ve learned that 90 minutes before start time is a good rule of thumb for the areas Keep the Pint Nights, if you care about where you sit. It also gives you time to check out the selection the boys at AG have provided for you…that day their chalkboard contained two beers brewed by Kona Brewing Company out of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Though I’ve read a great many things this was my first opportunity of being able to try anything from Kona, I imagine its because I’m a landlocked girl where its takes forever for beers to reach me. Can you imagine the journey? And what it took for Kona to get to us in Illinois? Awesome.

 I asked for a sample of the Kona Longboard Island Lager (year-round brew – 4.6%)) and the Kona Koko Brown (seasonal, 5.5%) – both fantastic but I chose the brown for my 16-ounce commitment. And what a delight! The beer is brewed with toasted coconut, with hints of caramel and toffee but it isn’t overly sweet, it’s a light aftertaste that is thirst-quenching, which I didn’t expect. Both of their beers were well-balanced, crisp, clean, and nicely carbonated; I look forward to trying more of their brews and maybe visiting them one day.

By the end of that pint it was time for my second beverage. It was 6pm, the bar was packed, everyone was excited and the Lagunitas distribution crew showed up with the glassware. I ordered a Lagunitas IPA in a namesake mason jar tumbler (pictured) for $4, which is the standard pint price there, pretty cool I didn’t get charged extra for the glass.

The glasses were the main reason why I went to AG; most breweries just do pint glasses with their logo on the side, which I like but thumbs up to Lagunitas for the creativity of their idea. Lagunitas labels their IPA as their flagship brew with good reason. It’s well-balanced with a nice citrusy-hop taste at the end, the nose is great, the color is standard, the ABV is at just over 6% so you can have more than one, and its easy to find.

This was my first beer-tapping event at Against the Grain and I had a great time. I got to see a lot of good beer pals and I also secured two hours worth of interview time with owner, Rich Nunez, so look for that article coming soon….



Bomber Monday 2.0

Once a month my friends and I gather together to celebrate the awesomeness that is The Bomber. A “bomber” bottle of beer is a 22-25.4 ounce bottle, typically filled with special batches, limited releases, brews with a high alcohol content, and/or collaboration creations. Because it can be adventurous, picking up a big bottle of potentially not good beer, they are perfect for sharing. Often times beer collectors cellar some of these beers for years, depending upon the style, and I think parties like these are nice to encourage cracking open some things that should be shown the light of day and appreciated.

Bomber Monday originally started thanks to Founder’s Frangelic Mountain Brown (#16 down below), a brew in their Backstage Series in 2012. A hazelnut coffee infused brown ale; sweet in the right ways, in the right amounts. A friend of mine knew I could get ahold of a bottle of it and kept pestering me about it, finally we made a deal – I’ll share a bottle from my collection if he brought over one from his.

Our first few months of having our little party were small, 6 or 7 bombers with 6 or 7 people. As it grew over time, Bomber Monday gave me an opportunity to not only become more bold in my choice of beer purchases but also a way to grow more comfortable with letting some of my rare brews go. I know that if its bad at least I’m only committed to 3 or 4 ounces and if its good, at least I get to take joy in sharing it with my friends.

Below is the list of beers we enjoyed at Bomber Monday 2.0. We have these gatherings monthly – the next one is July 8th at 6:30pm located at Rock Island Bent River. (*An $8 corking fee is required.)

  1. Crabtree Brewing Company’s Peachtree Cezanne Saison brewed in Greely, Colorado. A delicious little treat with fantastically light carbonation. Their website doesn’t say anything about the brew and the Internet isn’t providing me with much beyond other people’s opinions.
  1. Pipeworks Brewing Company’s Close Encounter Hoppy Double Stout. A delicious beer not that it matters too much to you though because Pipeworks is known for what is called “gypsy brewing” – they brew small batches and do not make the same beer twice. It just opened up in January of 2012 in Chicago, Illinois, in the Bucktown neighborhood. I think I’ll need to visit soon.
  1. Angry Cedar Brewing Co.’s Hoptimism from Waverly, Iowa. One you really shouldn’t care about not because the beer tasted like apple juice but because the brewery just closed.
  2. Thomas Creek Brewery’s Banana Split Chocolate Stout made in Greenville, South Carolina. A brewer should take this idea and actually make a banana split chocolate stout because that sounds amazing. This beer was not. It did not deliver.
  3. Rogue’s Old Crustacean Barleywine brewed in Newport, Oregon. I am not a huge Barleywine fan but a super cool bottle.
  4. Left Coast Brewing Co.’s Hop Juice, a Double India Pale Ale made in San Clemente, California. This was one of the best beers of the evening. Left Coast’s website boasts that is one of the pioneering Double IPA’s, a sweet beginning with a citrusy, clean hoppy end.
  5. Port Brewing’s Anniversary Ale from San Marcos, California. This is their seasonal celebrating their birthday. It’s a strong pale ale that’s been super duper hopped; Amarillo, Columbus and Simcoe in the brew then its dry-hopped with more Amarillo and Simcoe hops. It was delicious.
  6. Big Muddy Brewing’s Big Muddy Monster India Brown Ale from the not too far away Murphysboro, Illinois. This was an interesting beer. Imagine if an American Brown Ale and an IPA had a baby, this may be what would come out of it. Their Vanilla Stout has visited our Bomber Mondays before, it was a much better brew. Murphysboro has a rich brewing history; back before Prohibition 40,000 barrels of beer were produced there by the Stecher Brewing Company around 1910. It’s amazing to stumble across stories like this – the Midwest was quite a beer producing meccas before the Volstead Act ruined it.
  7. The next beer on our list the Kama Citra is imported from, Sogaards Bryghus in Koge, Denmark, took some time for me to track down. See it was imported by the Shelton Brothers, a trio of gentleman on the East Coast who scour the lands across the pond for good beers to bring home. This was a lovely brown ale with a citrusy, hoppy end that mixed well with its very light, slightly sweet malt beginning. This was one of my favorites of the night, plus is has a sexy name and label.
  8. 10 Barrel Brewing Co.’s Hop Rye It India Pale Ale brought to us from Bend, Oregon. Bend seemed to be a city that needs to be put on my “Travel To” list, because I keep reading about great things going on out there. Their beer community seems awesome. This beer was fantastic; it was well-balanced between the malt, the hops, and the rye. After checking out this breweries website, I’m excited to try more from them. Plus they seem cool
  9.  And 12. Pizza Port, Port Brewing Co., and the Lost Abbey are all connected by people making some of the best American beers to date, located out in California. The detailed history is here on their website and it’s impressive; almost any beer nerd that I know has had a love affair with at least one of the Lost Abbey’s brews. I think its because the concept was something that was well-thought out and executed all while paying homage to the abbey-styled ales that were the inspiration behind it all. At our party we had the Gift of the Magi, their Christmas Seasonal Beer brewed with Frankincence and Myrrth, that has an active, wild yeast added at bottling so that the beer continues to develop after its sent out of the brewery. Because of this and the bigger alcohol presence at just under 10%, the beer can be aged for quite some time. With nice a nice caramel presence and some clovey, spicey notes, it makes for a nice cooler weather brew. The other Lost Abbey brew we enjoyed was the Angel’s Share and an oak barrel aged strong ale that is beyond big at 12.5%. In doing research about this beer, the best info I found on it is a little quote from the breweries website:

“Down in Kentucky and across the pond in Scotland, distillers who age their whiskeys for many years refer to the evaporation of the spirits from their barrels as “The Angel’s Share.” We couldn’t agree more. Each time a barrel is filled, a measure of liquid seeps into the oak and is lost for good.”

The brew is infused with caramel malt to enhance the oak and vanilla flavors that come from old bourbon and brandy barrels. The Lost Abbey is doing some really complex, smart things out West. Always check them out if you can.

13. Peace Tree Brewing Co. ‘s 2010 Imperial Stout from Knoxville, Iowa. This was a lovely surprise to Bomber Monday brought to us by a generous friend of mine who had been aging it. The beer had a little bite to it, as one attendee said,

“It tastes just like it looks. Like medicine.”

But it was neat to see the old label, which I love, I like all the detailed information on it. I love this style of bottle – “stubbies” or “midgets”. They are much stronger than long neck bottles, less likely to break, and much easier to transport; I like that some breweries are using them.

14. Speaking of crazy bottles…Bomber Monday reached a new high in June as we opened and consumed our very first Magnum Bottle!!! A magnum bottle is a 1 ½ liter bottle. It was amazing. Filled with Two Brothers Brewing Company’s Heavier Handed an American Double IPA, which some people called the best beer of the night but I think it might have been because of the bottle. Two Handed Brewing Company is one of the biggest craft breweries in Chicagoland. I’m typically not too impressed with their beers but experiencing this one was beyond a delight.

15. West Brook Brewing Co.’s Mexican Cake Imperial Stout make in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. West Brook is a new operation, opened up in 2011, and this was the brew they made to celebrate their first year being open. It is an imperial stout aged in cocoa nibs, vanilla, and fresh habaneros, amongst many other things. This was a beer I wanted to have after eating a huge meal, it had a sweet beginning and a slightly heated end. A perfect nightcap beer.

16. Opened at the same time was the Frangelic Mountain Brown by Founder’s. Two deliciously delectable, perfectly awesome dessert beers to end our gathering with.

Sharing beers with friends is one of the best ways to try new things, share ideas and opinions, and learn about the variety of people’s pallets. Discussions about beers of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are one of the things I’m interested and I get a lot of intel from these gatherings. If you’re interested in joining us next month, visit the event page on Facebook and sign up!