Lagunitas Brewing & Moylan’s Garner European Beer Awards

Photo © Brian Stechschulte

Craft beer’s continued growth partly hinges on international success and it’s great to see Bay Area breweries getting accolades in big time competitions across the pond. They’ve been getting a little help from the Brewers Association as members of the Export Development Program, which seeks to upend America’s fizzy lager reputation. Notable awards were recently handed out at the European Beer Star Competition and the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival.

European Beer Star Competition

In it’s eighth year this competition has become one of the most prestigious events in the world. Over 1,100 beers from 39 countries were evaluated in 49 different categories. According to the competition organizers, “Prizes are awarded to the beers which best fulfill the respective type criteria, and whose taste and quality impresses the most.” Congratulations to Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant for taking home silver in the Imperial Stout category for Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout.

Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival

Europe’s largest beer and whiskey trade show celebrated it’s 20th anniversary by evaluating a record breaking 1,200 competition entries and welcoming 34,000 attendees. In this event, not only did Lagunitas Brewing capture a gold medal in the Modern Style Ale (6% and above) category for New Dog Town Pale Ale, but the same beer also took home the inaugural Beer of Festival award for receiving the highest rated score among the gold medal winners.

Congratulations to our local brewers!

Lagunitas Cancels Production of Brown Shugga’

Lagunitas Brewing Logo

Craft beer’s increasing popularity has left a lot of breweries scrambling to keep up with demand and juggling production schedules. If they make high gravity beer with an intense amount of ingredients, the stress is even greater. This year we’ve scene several high profile breweries pull distribution in markets around the country, including Dogfish Head and Flying Dog. Other breweries have chosen a different strategy.

This was the case late last week when Lagunitas Brewing announced that Brown Shugga’ would get axed from this year’s holiday lineup and be replaced by a new holiday ale. In addition, Hairy Eyeball’s availability will be cut 50%. It’s certainly disappointing to fans of both beers, but brewery owner Tony Magee provided a frank assessment of the situation on Beer Advocate that may calm a few nerves.

“This sad holiday season we didn’t have the brewing capacity to make our favorite seasonal brew, the widely feared, BrownShugga’ Ale. You see, we had a couple of really good years (thank you very much) and so heading into this season while we are awaiting the January delivery of a new 250bbl brewhouse we are jammin’ along brewing 80 barrels of IPA and PILS and Little Sumpin’ and such every 3 hours. A couple months back we realized that since we can only brew a mere 60 barrels of Shugga every 5 hours, that we were seriously screwed. For every case of Shugga’ we brewed we’d short 3 cases of our favorite daily beers. It’s a drag. This year, we brewed sumpin’ that we think is also cool and brews more like our daily brews. The new brewhouse will help insure that this kind of failure never occurs again. It’s a mess that we can not brew our Shugga’ this year and we suck for not doing it. There is nothing cool about screwing up this badly and we know it. Maybe we can sue our own sorry selves. There is no joy in our hearts this holiday and the best we can hope for is a quick and merciful end. F*@& us. This totally blows. Whatever. We freaking munch moldy donkey butt and we just want it all to be over…”

You gotta love the brutal honesty and self deprecating humor. So what’s the new holiday beer going to be called? In typical Lagunitas style it’s been dubbed “Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale.”

The History of Lagunitas Brewing Company


Lagunitas Brewing LogoEver wonder who designs the Lagunitas beer labels and writes the wacky stories on the side of the bottles? That answer, along with other details about the company, are featured in an excellent video and story produced by the North Bay Business Journal. They awarded a 2011 Manufacturing Award to the brewery and recently sat down with the personality behind the brand, owner Tony Magee.

Magee discusses the brewery’s early history, brewing philosophy and provides some hard numbers behind the company’s skyrocketing growth and current expansion plans. Check it out.

So You Want to Have Craft Beer at Your Wedding


Illustrations provided by M Sauter, creator of Pints and Panels. See below.

Any beer lover knows, or will find out, that their wedding is going to be the most stressful beer-related activity of their life.  At a typical party or casual beer-tasting people bring six-packs and share. You want to avoid mistakes, like trying some really obscure beer from Niger at a bar that ends up tasting like instant hangover (Biere Niger).  At a wedding you are the sole host and it’s your responsibility.

Think about it.  All your friends who love beer are going to judge your selections and cast an opinion.  “A keg of Supplication?  Awesome!”  On top of this, you have non-beer drinkers and they’ll constitute a huge percentage of the wedding population.  “I like Fat Tire but not much else,” you might hear them say.  Or maybe even “All beer tastes the same to me, I can’t tell the difference.”  I got that one recently and just about shat myself.

So there you go; beer lovers on one hand, potential beer lovers on the other.  What you decide might bring people over to the beer loving side or drive them away forever.  Remember when you had that really crappy IPA as your first IPA and you believed you didn’t like hoppy beers?  Their fate lies in your hands.  Don’t.  Screw.  This.  Up.

What to Choose

I did a pretty extensive beer set-up at my wedding and get asked for selection advice all the time. No matter the weather, I always come up with the same suggestion: get something hoppy and refreshing. For example, a Pale Ale or Lager would be a good choice for the uninitiated and then buy something special for the serious beer drinkers.  Note: That something special shouldn’t be too extreme. The goal is to get the Pale Ale drinkers to try out the other beer and like it.

At my own wedding I had three kegs from Lagunitas Brewing: the Pale Ale, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Extra and Censored.  I was only serving beer and wine and due to the relatively young age of the 170 attendees, Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was my high-alcohol backup for when the other kegs got drained.  There’s nothing like an 8.8% beer to slow people down a bit.  Oh, and people were camping on site or within a block of the hotel. I don’t recommend this setup for all weddings.

So a nice crisp beer along with a stronger amber beer does the trick.  There’s a reason you don’t see Stouts and Lambics at weddings too much.  The beer has to taste good, but you want to be able to drink at least six of them no problem. If you plan on dancing pretty hard, make it ten. The beer also needs to go with whatever dish you’re serving, so don’t get too crazy or else you’ll end up with half a keg of beer that will probably go to waste.

If you’re on a tight budget, my best advice is to get some coolers, ice, and hit up the local Costco for some cases of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Lagunitas IPA. They’re cheap and bottles can be self-distributed at the wedding. Guests can just reach in and grab one, but you do have a waste issue with all the necessary recycling. Caterers might charge you extra for hauling everything away.

Setup a Draft System

My catering company of choice was going to charge me so I decided to spend half that cost on a tap system in the interest of saving money and the environment. Here’s the setup I built. I bought a CO2 tank (20lb), two taps, all the hoses and regulators, and built my own bar.  The catering company brought beer glasses instead of champagne and it all worked out great.  The person bartending only had to pour wine while everyone gleefully poured his or her own beer right out of the tap.  “Just like at the bar!” some would yell.  It gives your wedding something unique people will remember.

Caution:  Most people don’t know how to pour from a tap. They’ll screw it up and get foam everywhere.  If I could have changed anything I would’ve posted a simple diagram showing how to pour a pint.

I spent about $400 on the whole bar system and kept in the end. When comparing the cost of hiring a bartender, beer, and renting equipment, buying the draft system made more sense. You might as well just buy it yourself.  I mean come on. You were going to get it at some point, right? Right? I purchased everything from Micro Matic.

A Few Parting Words

So remember, get Pale Ale or Lager and something a little stronger for the wedding.  If you go with a Hefeweizen you run the risk people not liking it because it tastes like bananas.  You could go with a cider, but who can really drink more than a few pints of that, especially non-cider drinkers.  Don’t bring out the big guns, but don’t give up and just get Anchor and Trumer. You can do this.  I have faith in you.

If you’re already married and served craft beer, share your selections and advice in the comment area below.

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Illustrations for this post were graciously provided by M Sauter, creator of the website Pints and Panels, where she uses her skills as a cartoonist to review beer. Check it out!