God, how I love this beer.
It is, for me, the all-around gold standard of popular IPAs. It’s Tim Duncan in beverage form: reliable, versatile, wildly popular, and always capable of putting forth a great performance.
Now notice I said it’s the gold standard of popular IPAs, not IPAs in general. Lagunitas IPA is not the best tasting IPA nor is it the smoothest one out there. It’s not the most unique, it doesn’t push boundaries, and, frankly, the bottle art leaves a lot to be desired. But whatever it may lack in ambition it more than makes up for with unparalleled drinker-friendliness.
It is available literally everywhere, at least in the Western U.S., and for such a widespread craft beer, it tastes damn good and you can really sling ’em back when you have to. It’s my go-to for when I want a good “drinking beer” that’s not overly obscure or experimental. It’s great for sporting events and viewing parties, and if you’re friends with relative beer snobs, like I am, a sixer of Lag-IPA will prove acceptable to them in most any context.
But this beer appeals to an audience far beyond beer snobs; that’s what makes it so great: It’s the people’s IPA. It’s fantastic for any gathering, any party, any backyard summer barbecue whose attendees can appreciate stuff beyond the -lite variety. It’s a familiar face, as mentioned, so it doesn’t really weird people out if you bring it with you to the shindig. If placed in a communal cooler or fridge somewhere, a 12-pack of it will disappear by the time the festivities wind down — and it won’t be because people are desperate. Even those who don’t usually like “strong” beers — aka mostly girls and baby boomers — seem to gravitate toward this IPA. That’s because it’s the perfect entry level craft brew. It’s got the iconic piny taste, the high ABV, and a bitterness that just pinches the palate as opposed to outright assaulting it. It’s hearty but not overwhelming. It’s a walk on the wild side while wearing a safety harness.
I’d compare Lagunitas IPA to a lovable bad boy. He’s attractive, slick as hell, and dangerous (but not that dangerous). He’s a hit with ladies, as his natural abrasiveness is offset by his impeccable personal hygiene. All the young guys idolize him, and though dad and grandpa have their reservations, they too secretly think he’s the coolest thing around. He has a switchblade that he sometimes whips out at parties. Strangers are obviously a bit intimidated by this, but everyone else knows that’s just how he is: not harmful, really, but a bit theatrical. He’s a super nice guy once you look past the neck tattoo, and he’ll always have your back when you really need him.
I personally associate this brew with happy things. Each sip conjures up memories of days spent in the sun and lots of laughter. It’s a kind of nostalgia I suppose, a reminder of good times, good buddies, and great experiences. Some of those buddies are far away now, and others are bogged down by new adult responsibilities. Work, money, and tons of other stuff now stand in the way of regular fun, but that’s the price of growth and progress. I drink this beer and it assures me all is all right. Good friends and good times last a lifetime. They’ll both come around again.
Lagunitas’s motto is, “Life is uncertain, don’t sip.” I always thought that was fitting. We have very little control of anything in this world, but that notion isn’t inherently pessimistic. Things happen, and things don’t happen — we can only do so much. Might as well chill and enjoy a beer while we’re on the ride.
ABV: 6.2% IBUs: 45.6