Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lagunitas Brewing Company Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale

Hello beer lovers and welcome to another edition of the NorCal Beer Blog's brew review.

Tonight’s featured beer is Lagunitas Brewing Company Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale. As I roll through the beers that Lagunitas brews (as the case that they’d be the brewery on my deserted island is strengthened) I decided to review Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale – a beer I hadn’t purchased up until somewhat recently, but it seems to be the beer I gravitate towards most when deciding what to drink. With that said, I knew I had to review it since I’m probably two cases in to my Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale addiction.

From the Lagunitas website: “We brewed this especially bitter ale in dedication to all the world’s would-be astronauts, in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre on the Brewery Party Grounds and also in joyous celebration of our 20-day suspension that following January. Do the crime. Do the time. Get the bragging rights. Cheers.”

I did some research on the 20-day suspension…and this is what I came up with…

From Barlow Brewing: “The story behind the Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale is well known, but it bears repeating. The brewery was holding regular tastings every Thursday night and some do-gooder had noticed someone smoking pot (not an unusual occurrence) outside the brewery. That led to the police to conduct an eight week undercover investigation into the brewery. Every week the undercover cops would come to the brewery tasting and try to buy pot. Plenty of people offered it to cops, but no one ever tried to sell it to them. Finally the police just got pissed off and on St. Patrick’s Day arrested a few people and shutdown Lagunitas for 20 days.

In an act of wonderful subtly, Lagunitas later released their Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale. It is a whopping 9.7% ABV and, despite being a borderline barleywine, the brewery calls it an “oxymoronic imperial mild””

I kept searching as the story got more and more interesting.

From The Drugspot: “Our Beer of the Week is about as unusual as beer gets and I don't know whether to laugh or cry or just scream. The beer is Lagunitas Undercover Investigation on Shutdown or "Whatever, We're Still Here”, from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma.

Five-star-world class status isn't for the beer, although it's a typically delicious, major Lagunitas brew: 9.9 percent alcohol by volume, pale barley malt, a touch of wheat, Horizon bittering hops and a mix of mild and spicy Willamette hops, plus Centennial and Liberty hops that effectively mask the high alcohol.

Here's the story: Lagunitas, with its roots solidly in Petaluma in Sonoma County, a county that is home to many a marijuana stash, long held a beer tasting every Thursday evening: $2 beer, free food and music. Founder Tony Magee explains they advertised in a weekly newspaper, under the headline: "420."

The term 420 started, I understand, as the time — 4:20 p.m. — a group of students met to light up joints. Today, it signifies the weed itself. Anyway, the Lagunitas tasting always started at 4:20 p.m. "We were having fun with it," Magee says. "It wasn't like a giant pot party. There might have been three or four people out of 70 smoking pot. It's like, well, this is Sonoma County."

But the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board got the idea that Lagunitas or its employees were selling dope at the tastings. So, for eight weeks, they sent undercover investigators, a man and a woman, to the tastings to try to buy marijuana.

They had no luck. "People kept trying to give them some," Magee says. Finally, the ABC gave up and on St. Patrick's Day, 2005, they cited three people, including one Lagunitas worker, two for possession of marijuana, one for possession for sale.

ABC spokesman John Carr says he isn't sure, but Magee says charges were dropped against all three.

Bottom line: The ABC suspended Lagunitas license to sell beer for 20 days and placed the company on one year's probation, ending Nov. 18. Magee got the message. Although it began in his kitchen in the hamlet of Lagunitas in Marin County, the craft brewery's now a multimillion dollar business with 26 employees.

"Once in a while, God — the ABC — drops in and tells you he's in charge," Magee says.

"Last year, we made 32,420 barrels of beer," he says. "No kidding, that number was in our report (to the federal government)."

Proving there's still free speech: Lagunitas released Undercover Ale as a regular seasonal.”

OK…now that’s quite a back story and I appreciate these fantastic blogs for putting up the story. Thank you to both Barlow Brewing and The Drugspot their reporting. Hopefully they won’t get mad at me for reposting their reports.
Let’s get started!
Appearance: Pours a mahogany/dark brown color with a nice off-white head and excellent lacing.
Aroma: Caramel malt, sweet almost toffee nut scents followed by citrus and pine hops and a hint of grapefruit. It has a beer candy thing going on. A little boozy after effect.
Taste: Sweet caramel, toffee flavors and roasted barley are soon dominated by the classic Lagunitas hop punch. Well balanced with pine and citrus notes and a little spice. Finish is sweet and sugary with a bit of alcohol begging me to drink several (or maybe that’s just in my mind).
Overall: Fantastic strong ale that is perfect in every way. Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-down Ale - BEWARE of the 9.75% ABV. This is one beer that I will eagerly await every year (much like Brown Shugga’ and Hairy Eyeball. I better stock up before it goes away and I suggest you do the same! Now if I can only figure out how to clone this one…


Mark Harvey

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