Lagunitas is a California based brewery that has a bottling plant in Chicago that includes a quaint taproom. Surprisingly, the Chicago satellite location produces the majority of the beer bottled for Lagunitas. During my visit to Chicago last week, we stopped in to the Lagunitas Brewery for lunch at the taproom and a quick self tour on the catwalks. The brewery has scheduled tours, which will be discussed further in minute, but my visit did not coincide with the tour and tasting times. I posted some of these photos during my visit, but did not include a description of the experience. Now that I have time, I would like to share the full experience.
The exterior of the Lagunitas Brewery is typical for a warehouse district. There is a distinct industrial feel to the complex. That atmosphere is immediately replaced with circus fun house graphics and lighting as visitors enter the hallway that leads to the taproom. The hallway is painted blue with florescent designs on the walls. Large bay windows open up to views of the massive bottling machines and fermentation tanks located along the lengthy hallway. The atmosphere further draws adults back to the childhood wonder of hidden treats with a Willie Wonka soundtrack playing in the background. The hallway leads to a stairwell, where guests climb a couple of flights of stairs to the upper level. From here, visitors can hit the gift shop, or walk around to the taproom. You can get to the taproom either direction.
The lunch menu was limited, but offered a decent selection. There was a menu insert that included some additional choices. I ordered from the insert, but can't remember what the item was called. It was an Asian inspired taco made with brisket. It was like a pork bun shell which was soft, providing a pillow-y delivery mechanism for a flavor-packed brisket punch. The brisket was topped with julienne pickled vegetables. I received an order of three, which was just about right for me for lunch, but might be small for some visitors. The price point was eleven or twelve dollars. I washed it down with a tasty wine-barrel aged beer that had a sour cherry vibe. I don't recall the name of the brew, but it had a high ABV (in the range of 8 percent I believe) and was amazing. The flavor was spot on. It was a refreshing lunch in a funky atmosphere.
When we finished eating, we were permitted to walk out onto the catwalks to view the brewing operation. In a word, it is massive. I asked one of the brew masters, who is a home brewer like I am, how much beer they were equipped to brew. The fermentation tanks can handle 250 barrels at a time. I think some quick math put that over 20,000 bottles per tank. I believe the brew master said their were over forty tanks in the brewery. That puts production in the million bottle range at any given time. That's impressive. My math may be off, so don't quote me. But I believe I am in the ballpark. The catwalks provided us views of the tanks as well as the barrelling operation which was equally impressive. My favorite beers are barrel aged products. Preferably BBL, but I have tasted a few wine barrel aged that I enjoyed as well. To include the selection I had during this visit. The photos below offer some perspective of the brewing operation. This is not even the entire plant.
The Taproom is closed on Monday and Tuesday for non-profit fund raising events. Wednesday through Sunday, the Taproom is open from noon until 9 PM. The gift shop is open on the same days, closing an hour earlier, at 8 PM on days it is open.
Tours are listed as "every freaking day." Tasting tours are conducted Monday through Friday at 1 PM and 3 PM. I wish I would have timed it right for the tasting tour. There is a funky lounge on the lower level that is visible from the Taproom level. It looked like a fun, funky place to hang out and try a few beers after learning about the brewery. There are also Walking Tours that don't include the tasting Wednesday through Friday at 5 PM and 6 PM and on the Weekend hourly from 1 PM until 6 PM.
The taproom it located at 2607 W. 17th St. Chicago, Ill. 60608.
All photos are my own. They may be reproduced with prior permission.