Everyone is up in arms when their favourite small craft brewer gets to the size where business decisions have to be made, often involving ‘sell out’ to the insatiable appetite of big business.
So when a lovely lady invited me to taste some new, and more importantly free, Lagunitas beer and meet the ‘BrewMonster’ Jeremy Marshall it wasn’t difficult to accept. (Full disclosure time, free beer, goodie bag, no commitment to write.) In particular for the chance to grill someone about the relationship with Heineken. Spoiler alert, we all know their answer.
The Social on Little Portland Street was the venue, a bar on street level but we were downstairs in a noisy dungeon. I can’t imagine it is a regular haunt of Bryan Betts or Martyn Cornell, as indeed it isn’t mine. Suitably hip not Heineken though.
We don’t get a lot of opportunity to try some of Lagunitas seasonal and one-off brews in the UK. You can read better reviews of the beer elsewhere but in brief Born Again Yesterday is one for fresh hop lovers (fun to brew, I couldn’t drink much of it though), Aunt Sally a sour IPA using their English yeast (not sour enough for acidheads, not too bitter, entry level but none the worse for that, I enjoyed this) and an Imperial Coffee Stout which was phenomenal but as it was the last keg in existence I won’t tease further.
Crammed into a tiny bar space and with no prepared presentation it was a bit chaotic but good fun. A few titbits from the ‘presentation’,
- Lagunitas suffer in the UK from the progressive duty, their beers are too high ABV to be competitively priced for the British market (in most other countries duty is the same on a 4% or 12% beer)
- Lagunitas and Heineken are ‘trying to learn about the future together’. Information will be a two-way street apparently. (Though Heineken haven’t told them about their now not so new wild yeast strain.)
- ‘Hazy is lazy’ I would be very interested to see this discussed with many trendy craft brewers. Will they use this phrase in their advertising I wonder? For more on this argument, please see Ed’s Beer Site
- Lagunitas use a lot of different hops because they need each to add it’s own distinctive flavour profile. Large brewers (Lagunitas not in this category apparently) use a lot of different hops to level out the flavours. OK if you say so.
- If Lagunitas was a band they would be Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. See previous comment.
It’s tricky isn’t it? On the one hand they want to be a bunch of west coast hipsters making cool beers for beautiful people on the other they want to make money and sell more beer. Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn face similar dilemmas, well maybe not a dilemma depending on their outlook.
One thing is clear, Lagunitas was good beer, Lagunitas is good beer. If the Heineken tie-in means that more of their rarer beers become available in the UK then that is a good thing. I will just judge Lagunitas on the beer.
Beer speaks. People mumble. Should I take offence at that?