Monday, January 23, 2017

Lagunitas Brewery Taproom

 It is a good time to be a beer drinker.  There are over 5000 breweries in the United States and about 50 in the city of Chicago alone.  Most are pretty small and self-distribute if they distribute at all, but there are a few big boys in town.  Many places have a capacity of a few thousand barrels per year, Lagunitas Brewery Chicago has a capacity of 600,000 barrels per year.  I had been to several several breweries before I first went to Lagunitas, so I knew what to expect, I thought.  Riding there, I noticed that it is much bigger than the other breweries that I was used to.  While I had seen breweries in warehouses before, this seemed to take up an entire large warehouse space.  The sign was on one corner with a very complete address.

Walking into the building the fun continues.  The Long hallway leading back into the building is blue with a lot of black light and lasers.  The painted sign leading to the tap room is yellow and orange with a real psychedelic vibe.  The letters are twisted and have a winding tail that leads down the hall.  In addition to the blue light and the lasers, the Willy Wonka theme (Pure Imagination) plays on repeat.  At the end of the hall is a picture of a woman holding a beer labeled Waldo that is completely made of bottle caps and around the corner is another painting of a cartoon monster with a green body and red horns and tongue.

At the end of the hall where the art is, the passageway turns left and passes window, behind wich are brewing and packaging areas and a sense of scale is started to be gained.  The number and size of brewing and fermenting vessels are of a scale I had not previously seen and I was kind of blown away.

At the end of the hall is a stairway that leads to the third floor where the taproom is located.  On the way up, there is a door on the second level that references Star Wars, saying that this is not the door that you are looking for and instructs the prospective drinker to go higher.  At the top of the stairs, there is more wandering to be done.  There is a Schwag shop across from the stairway and windows showing a party room and the upper level of the brewing area.  A walk down the passageway at that level, it turns right and then enters the taproom.  The taproom is well lit with windows on three sides, wood paneled walls, long picnic tables and a large rectangular bar on the far side.  there is a small "stage" on one side that frequently has live music, typically Roots, Folk, and Americana.   In addition to the seating inside the taproom, there are couches and tables in the passageway before entering the taproom and tables on a catwalk overlooking the brewing area.  While it is cool to walk out on the catwalk, I prefer to do my drinking and dining in the taproom and at the bar as well.
There is a chalkboard on the wall dividing the taproom from the kitchen listing the beers on tap.  there are generally about 16 beers on tap.  You can order by the pint or 5 oz pour in a flight of 4 or 8.  Because they have so many beers, I like to get a flight so I can try as many as I can.  generally, i go for a flight of 4 because I want to be able to get home without issue.  I discovered Lagunitas through their IPA and while I like it, I generally prefer to order new beers or limited runs.  Fo r this trip, I went with Aunt Sally Dry-Hopped Sweet Tart Sour Mash Ale, CitruSinensis Pale Ale, Fusion American Double/Imperial IPA, and Hop Stoopid American Double/Imperial IPA.  Aunt Sally is a hoppy Wild Ale and it's pretty good.  It is pretty sour, but the hops actually complement the sour flavor.  The CitruSinensis is a Pale Ale made with Blood Oranges.  I like their standard Pale Ale which is what their base beer is, but the addition of blood oranges adds a sweet tart flavor.  The Fusion and Hop Stoopid are both High Alcohol beers.  the Fusion leans more toward a Double and the Hop Stoopid is more an Imperial IPA.  Of the beers, I think I liked Aunt Sally best.
The food menu at Lagunitas leans toward barbecue, burgers, and bar food, but they do have salads and some entree plates.  This time I decided to go with Pork Schnitzel with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apple Demi, and Pickled Fennel and Onions as a garnish.  The Schnitzel was tender and juicy with a nice crispy crust.  The apple demi added a cider flavor to the schnitzel and acted as a gravy to the mashed potatoes.  The Brussels Sprouts were tender, flavorful, and the entire plate was very good and enjoyable.
For dessert, I went with a Spent Grain Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel, and Candied Malt.  I am a sucker for brownies, and this brownie, very large and made with grain that had been used in the brewing process, was very much a winner.  The ice cream, while nice, was unnecessary.

I always enjoy coming to Lagunitas.  The beer is good and there is always something new, and they don't skimp on the food.  While there are other beers that I like more, the beer here is good and they know how to have a good time, so I will surely return.      

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