Some people can be terribly sniffy about Wetherspoons pubs, talking about them as if they themselves are somehow a class above the people that frequent them, mumbling phrases like ‘pub chain’, ‘too big’, ‘full of people drinking’ and ‘weird carpets’ as if all of those things are a very bad thing.
I’ve always been more than happy to stick my nose into a Wetherspoons, guzzle from their excellent range of cheap beer and, on occasions, tuck into their vast fried breakfasts. If I’m somewhere that has excellent independent pubs serving a quality range of ales then I’m less likely to pop into the ‘spoons down the road, but there are still plenty of streets lined with pubs offering no more than two lagers and Guinness, in which case the sight of a Wetherspoons is a welcome one.
On many nights out I have converted reticent visitors into fully fledged ‘spoons enthusiasts, and I’ve also used the location to introduce friends to the delights of modern American ales, thanks to their stocking of one of my favourite beers, a rip-snorting IPA by Californian brewery Lagunitas.
Some people can be terribly sniffy about Lagunitas. They were one of the first of the new breed of modern American breweries to go big, almost inevitably reaching a scale that had the brewing behemoths sniffing round their yeasty cellars, eventually selling a 50% stake to Dutch mega brand Heineken towards the end of last year.
Being popular, having longevity, and being part owned by a beer giant is too much for some beer snobs, causing them to mutter disparaging remarks like ‘not as good as it was’, ‘have never been a fan’ and ‘a bit bland’, as if the mere knowledge of Heineken’s involvement has somehow affected the way it tastes. If you haven’t tried it before, ignore the naysayers and cast aside your negative assumptions about Heineken-owned brands, because it’s still one of the best IPAs out there.
Like many of its fellow American IPAs, from big breweries to smaller craft producers, this beer is all about the hops. Sticky grapefruit flavours lead the way, followed by a big bombshell of tropical, citrus and refreshing pine hops, all kicking and screaming for attention. The flavours are bold and strong, carried by a lovely light malty base and a decently boozy 6.2% of alcohol.
This has been one of my favourite beers for a good few years, and the introduction of Dutch brewing power doesn’t look like it’ll change things anytime soon. And if you’re still not willing to enter a Wetherspoons to try one, it’s now available in UK supermarkets*. You can probably thank being part of a big brand for that.
*This bottle came from Morrisons. Also available online at Beers of Europe
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California
Beer name: IPA