Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kronik and Craft: Lagunitas Brewing Company

When Edible Skinny takes a break from wine they drink beer and we took a break from all those grapes to experience the world of the craft brewery at Lagunitas Brewing Company. 

The brewery (which you might be familiar with through the Beer Wars documentary) was started in 1993 in the form of a Christmas homebrew kit that Tony Magee received while living in Lagunitas, California.  He brewed to district himself from the $30,000 he was in debt for and within a short time he had graduated to a 3 ½ barrel system.  Magee started making beer and selling kegs to local bars and restaurants out of the back of his Ford Ranger pickup truck.  The company moved up to a 15-barrel system and started bottling and distributing keys and bottles through the San Francisco Bay area in 1995.

Wandering northbound, the brewery found its home in Petaluma, California, (home of the egg incubator and the world ugliest dog contest).  Lagunitas is now distributed in 32 states and 5 countries.  Since the mid-2000s, Lagunitas has been one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the United States, increasing from 27,000 barrels in 2004 to 700,000 barrels in 2013.

2005, Lagunitas was the subject of an eight-week undercover investigation wherein it was suspected of selling marijuana.  The funny thing is, when the government agents tried to buy weed from the employees, they simply offered them a joint for free.  Eventually, the brewery was charged with Moral Turpitude and Disorderly House, laws that were used to shut down brothels during Prohibition, and forced to close the operation for 20 days.  The company advantageously used this time to install a new bottling line.  Every March, Lagunitas releases a beer called Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale because as the label states, “We did the crime. We did the time. We got the bragging rights.”

This brewery loves gettin’ on the wrong side of the law.  In addition to the Undercover Investigation escapade, the brewery's released a beer called the Kronik (slapping with censored bar on the label to get it approved once the federal label-approving agency, the BATF realized what Kronik actually references. Hint: it’s Marijuana).  Lagunitas slapped a “Censored” sticker on it as a joke and they accepted.  Thus, from the smoky clouds of a 420 haze their Censored Beer was born.  

TonyMagee vowed Lagunitas would never go pubic, because he wanted to make craft beers and didn’t want to focus on the bottom line.  The result is a following that would put Miley Cyrus fans to shame and a company that’s rapidly expanding.  In May, Lagunitas had its official opening for their second plant in Chicago (Magee’s hometown), which will bring in a whopping 1.7 million barrels a year (on top of 700k barrels at the Petaluma). 

At 2.4 million barrels, that would put Lagunitas as the second-largest “craft” brewery behind The Boston Beer Company in terms of brewing capacity.  Numbers that are serious (regardless of what you’ve been smoking).

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