Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lagunitas and Frank Zappa

Lunar in Villa Park is my main weeknight go-to. It's cozy, dimly-lit, stocked with great house brews and guest taps, and on my way home from work. And the people's always good too.*

Last night at Lunar, I had the pleasure of meeting their brewmaster Charley. (Or is it Charlie? I didn't ask.) Actually, as I recall, he introduced himself as "ambassador," but I'm comfortable with the assumption. In my experience, the house brews at Lunar have been mostly hits, with a couple so-sos, and maybe a miss or two, so overall, I have a great appreciation for the man's work. I spent about an hour chatting it up with him, mostly listening while he told stories and shared his beer wisdom.

One of the odder stories Charley told me involved Lagunitas and Frank Zappa. Unbeknownst to me, Lagunitas brewed a series of beers last decade (before I'd ever heard the name Lagunitas) that were named after Frank Zappa albums. Evidently the brewers are big Zappa fans and wanted to honor him by releasing these beers on anniversaries of the album releases. The custom has since been stopped, which, according to Charley, was the doing of Zappa's widow, who became upset at Lagunitas for supplying beer at the funeral for one of Zappa's road managers. Rumor had it that one of the manager's main duties was supplying Zappa with hookers and groupies, so Mrs. Zappa did not appreciate the dignitary treatment shown the manager by Lagunitas.

A story like that is just odd and uninteresting enough to be true, though I wouldn't doubt if the brews were discontinued over copyright reasons, which would be ironic, given that Zappa is considered a pioneer of content sharing.

Charley's takeaway beer-related quote of the night was, "Really, we're yeast farmers who happen to make beer." Catchy. We also railed a bit at the ABV and IBU space race in the craft market, to which Charley expects a backlash of easier-drinking beers with more complex and subtle flavors to come in the near future. Cheers to that.

Lunar's house brews--though often high in ABV--follow that premise. Last night I chose their IlLunaRator, a 9% dopplebock that's delicious and incredibly easy down the hatch. (That's right--a bock I truly enjoyed.) I also sampled the excellent house pilsner--more of the Czech style than German--which reminds me a lot of Lagunitas Pils, speak of the devil.

I'll spare the detailed analysis of the beers since you have to come to Villa Park to try them, but if you ever find yourself in the Chicago suburbs, it's worth the trip. I'll even meet you there.

*I was a little sad to learn last night that one of their bartenders, Paul, took a job in the city. He's one of the more knowledgeable and conversational bartenders I've ever met. I wish him well.

P.S.: If you were wondering how long it would take for me to start straight-up shilling for my favorite bars, the answer is less than a month.

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