THE BLOG

Hops, the Friendly Greek, and Lagunitas Brewing Company

07/12/2010 03:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I am a hop head.

When it comes to a fine craft brew I am fairly indiscriminate. If it is brewed well then chances are my taste buds are going to be partying. However, if my life depended on choosing one style, I would blubber, "HOPS! Anything hoppy, for the love of God!"

My husband got back from another business trip to China a few days ago. As is becoming tradition, he stopped on the way home to pick up a couple six-packs of beer. Perhaps it is a peace offering of sorts, to comfort me and my newly formed gray hairs after two weeks of single, full-time parenting to our progeny.

I'm kidding. There are no gray hairs on my head.

This time he stopped at The Friendly Greek, in our hometown of Lancaster, PA. It's a pizza shop, but not one like the other hundred or so joints in town. This one has craft beer; it also offers the largest carryout selection in town. The microbrew count is around 95 different varieties, and all the different varieties together (including different sizes of the same type) has been counted as high as 600. For those out-of-staters, Pennsylvania still has some disappointingly archaic alcohol laws on the books. We can only get cases of beer at a distributor (but they can't sell six-packs), six-packs of beer at a bar or licensed six-pack establishment, and wine and liquor from a state-run store. There have been some attempts to change these laws and I've heard rumors of a few magical places that are now serving alcohol in gas stations or supermarkets, but I can't believe it until I see with my own eyes. Now back to food, because food is very near and dear to my heart. I love to look at it. I love to smell it. I love to make it. Most of all, I love to eat it. The Friendly Greek offers gyro meat on their pizzas. It is cut into juicy rectangular slices and generously applied to a thin, chewy crust with a sauce that is perfectly balanced with the amount of cheese. Everything about these pies is spot-on. The owner, Teddy Keares, has done wonderful things with this business and if you are ever in the area to see the Amish, this really is the best place in town to stop for pizza as well as get a six-pack to take back to your hotel.

In the hands of my beloved this week were cans of 21st Amendment Brewery's Brew Free or Die! IPA from San Francisco, CA and bottles of Lagunitas Brewing Company's Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.

I began drooling immediately at my good fortune. I then remembered to welcome my husband home after his long trip away. I don't always prioritize well, I admit.

I was particularly drawn to Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale before I even opened the bottle. The label is creative, amusing, and intriguing. First I read the net contents: 12 fluid oz's ... of hops, malt, hops, hops, yeast, hops, water, and hops. That is heaven in a bottle to this girl. Then I read the fine print on the label:

We brewed this especially bitter ale in dedication to all of the world's would-be astronauts, in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick's Day Massacre on the Brewery Party Grounds and also in joyous celebration of our 20-day suspension that following January. Do the crime. Do the time. Get the bragging rights. Cheers!

Fascinating. I needed to learn the story behind this brew, but first I had to crack the bottle open and see if the beer was as impressive as the label. Oh, was it ever! The aroma is ultra-hoppy and crisp. Take a sip. The bitterness in this beer is high yet it is still very smooth and with no harsh aftertaste. Unbelievably hoppy from the moment it hits your tongue to well after it has gone down your gullet. The IBU of this hop-daddy is 72.41.

I contacted Lagunitas Brewing Company to find out what this brew is all about. Ron Lindenbusch responded and pointed me in the direction of this video. It tells the story of what happened on St. Patty's Day in 2005 and also showed me that PA isn't the only state with some archaic laws on the book that are still being followed today.

In a nutshell, there were undercovers with the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) that were at the brewery for weeks, unsuccessfully trying to find violations. It could possibly be argued that they were attempting to entrap the employees of the brewery, but that is a story for another day. On St. Patty's Day 2005, there were patrons smoking marijuana at the establishment and the investigators immediately arrested the violators and said the brewery would be shut down for violating a 1933 law called Disorderly House. Here is an excerpt taking from California's ABC website, under FAQ:

Q. 65. What is a disorderly house?
A. A disorderly house is a licensed premises that disturbs the neighborhood or is maintained for purposes which are injurious to the public morals, health, convenience or safety. For example, a licensed outlet that (a) disturbs the neighborhood with noise, loud music, loitering, littering, vandalism, urination or defecation by patrons, graffiti, etc.; or (b) has many crimes ongoing inside, such as drunks, fights, assaults, prostitution, narcotics, etc. The licensed premises includes the parking lot.
Any licensee, or employee of any licensee, who keeps or permits such a disorderly house is guilty of a misdemeanor, and the license is subject to disciplinary action. (Sections 25601 and 24200)

Lagunitas Brewing Company appealed and the punishment was reduced to a 20-day suspension.

If you are interested in learning more about the incident, watch that video or just stop by the brewery and ask! Many thanks to Ron Lindenbusch for his information. Great story for a great brew. Eat, drink and be merry. Just don't get caught.