The Lagunitas Taproom reopens at its Chicago brewery on April 13 after more than three years of pandemic closure, and if a preview last weekend is any indication, the place hasn’t missed a beat.
Located on the second floor of a massive 300,000-square-foot brewery in North Lawndale next to Cinespace Film Studios and near Douglas Park, the taproom remains a fun place to hang, with good beer served in mason jars and food that Midwesterners will appreciate. Heineken bought out founder Tony Magee in 2017, though the branding and vibes on display remain strictly Lagunitas.
New taproom GM Julia Helton, a chef who competed on Food Network’s Vegas Chef Prizefight, acknowledged Lagunitas played it safe when deciding to bring the public back, despite beer still being brewed onsite throughout the pandemic.
The taps and styles are plentiful. The nine year-round releases are available, including the flagship IPA and old fav Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, plus the 9% Maximus. On the other end of the spectrum, they have their IPNA and Hoppy Refresher hop water available as non-alcoholic options.
We spent our four preview tokens on some of the 14 limited releases. A fav was the 3-Year Haze, a 5.6% IPA that was juicy and easy to drink. The New New Dogtown XPA had a fair share of bitterness and featured Amarillo, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops at 7.5%. The 17707ST IPA featured an experimental hop with hints of peach. It was OK.
We hoped some Willettized BA stout would be on tap, and it was. The stout had a nice chocolate flavor, and the Metropolis Coffee was present but not overwhelming, as were the Bourbon and Rye Willett barrels this beer was aged in. This beer remains a great value for a BA stout.
Also available: a blended Belgian ale aged in Bourdeaux barrels with blackberries, a black IPA, a pilsner and a lager, a two-year foeder-aged sour with raspberries, and Waldo’s Special Ale (after all, 4/20 is just a week after the taproom officially reopens).
OG Lagunitas chef Juan Carlos Bueno is back at the helm after a pandemic stop at Ravinia Brewing‘s Logan Square taproom. He’s brought back Before Times favorites like Black Mussels and Hoganitas, which is made up of pork belly, ham, Swiss and onion on a telera roll. The cajun pasta with shrimp and andouille sausage was tasty, and this being Chicago, there’s a Slagel Farms smashburger available. There are two Shepherd’s Pie options, one with beef and a vegetarian one with lentils. The pretzel with Lagunitas beer cheese remains a standout. If you’re the type that brings children to a taproom, there’s even a menu for them.
As Lagunitas dips its toes back into the water, the taproom will be open Thursday-Sunday.