Lagunitas Brewing Company

By Kirby Bennett

Named after the small, unincorporated Marin County town in which it was founded, Lagunitas Brewing Company is now one of California’s biggest names in beer. Founded in 1993 by Tony Magee, the brewery quickly outgrew its small rural location, aka Magee’s garage, in under a year and moved north to its current home in the industrial outskirts of Petaluma.

As one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the U.S., Lagunitas grew from producing just 27,000 barrels in 2004 to a whopping 600,000 barrels thanks to their 2012 expansion.

Expansion in 2013

In April 2012 Lagunitas announced plans for a sister location in Chicago’s Douglas Park neighborhood, which will also have a 600,000 barrel capacity. This location will provide the eastern and mid-west regions of the country with fresh Lagunitas beer.

The Chicago brewery will help revitalize the southwest neighborhood, creating an estimated 100 jobs. Magee, a Chicago native, decided to build there after reviewing the cost and environmental impact of shipping beer from California to its 32 state distribution network. The Chicago location is slated to open October 2013.

They Got Jokes!

Perhaps the great success of Lagunitas is partly due to their humor. Any well-versed Lagunitas fan knows not take a swig and then read what is written on the label, for fear of spitting the beer out in laughter. The Lagunitas iPhone App features a bottle cap that spins and gives you Tao-like advice such as “If there were no God, there would be no Atheists” and “A balanced diet is a beer in each hand.”

In late 2011, when a falling crane in the Caribbean Sea crushed their shiny new 30’ diameter lauter tun while it was en-route to the brewery, they decided to make the best of it, and used the picture of the damaged equipment as their company Christmas card.

Lagunitas interjects humor into almost every aspect of their brand, even how they explain the difference between ales and lagers: “Where an ale might hit you over the head and take your wallet, lagers donate to charity and adopt stray cats. While an ale might steal your car or try to date your daughter and keep her out all night for who-knows-what purpose, a well bred lager would offer to clean your house while you’re on vacation and leave fresh scones and coffee for you when you return.”

The TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary

The TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary features outdoor seating with long wooden tables, a restaurant, a stage where local musicians play free shows, and an upstairs taproom that overlooks the brewery. The newest addition is the LaguMiniAmphitheaterette, with a 300 person seating capacity. The small amphitheater came about when Magee walked past the enormous mound of dirt excavated by the recent expansion and had a revelation. Magee, who is also a singer and guitarist, said that the shows will be free but ticketed through a local radio station due to limited capacity.

Community

Lagunitas is known for its continual community support, especially to local music and art programs. The two stages at the Petaluma location provide a place for local musicians to showcase their talent. Their annual Beer Circus is a popular event that features local breweries, local food and vaudeville acts all benefitting the Petaluma Music Festival. They also hold fundraisers and donate beer to various non-profits concerned with arts, music, independent film, school programs, animal welfare and a plethora of other worthy causes.

Year-round Beers

  • IPA
  • Pils
  • Pale
  • Censored
  • Little Sumpin’
  • Maximus
  • Imperial Stout
  • Hopstoopid

Seasonals

  • Imperial Red
  • Undercover Investigation Shut-Down
  • Little Sumpin Wild
  • Brown Shugga
  • WilcoTangoFoxtrot
  • Lucky 13
  • Daytime
  • Cappuccino Stout

Kirby BennettKirby Bennett’s love of craft beer started in 2002 when she was living in Amsterdam and discovered an amazing bottleshop called De Bierkoning. A long ways now from sipping La Trappe on the canals, she is currently the Craft Beer Program intern for the Brewers Association. She is a Cicerone® Certified Beer Server, holds a BA in English, dabbles in homebrewing, and makes a mean quinoa salad. She hopes to continue her career somewhere in the distribution world, then someday open a sustainable beer bar in whatever city she decides to settle in!