On Tuesday night, as the snow began falling on Chicago, thousands of people streamed in to the long-awaited Lagunitas Chicago Brewery for a “not-so-dry-run,” a chance to showcase the space and give those uneducated on all things Lagunitas a crash course on eclectic brewery.
The brewery is every bit as massive as Lagunitas Founder Tony Magee has made it out to be, and the event was every bit as ridiculous as we expected a Lagunitas party to be. There were bands, fire twirlers, food trucks, LOTS of Lagunitas beer — basically it was a carnival encased in steel, flanked by towering brewing equipment.
We won’t go on too much about the party itself, although it was pretty awesome, because those things won’t be there when the brewery cranks up production. At least, we don’t think it will. But those shiny, stainless steel bright tanks, fermenters, brew kettles and the winding bottling line will be.
Speaking of production, it looks like Lagunitas is planning a water brew later this month with tentative plans to brew its first batches of beer by late February or early March. The elevated taproom overlooking the brewery could open as soon as mid-March. Keep in mind these dates have changed, quite frequently.
While we’re sure Lagunitas drinkers on the east coast will appreciate fresher beer as it won’t have to be trucked clear across the country, we’re curious about the implications Lagunitas’ presence in Chicago will have on tap handles and shelf space here. Lagunitas’ beers aren’t that hard to find now, but will having a Chicago location create more demand for its brews? And if so will Lagunitas — inadvertently or purposely — wind up displacing smaller, local brewers? I suppose only time will tell.