Lagunitas Brewing Company Dogtown Pale Ale

Editor’s note: We’re republishing this review from April 2003 because the old copy still gets so much reader traffic.

We came across this one while in dodging junkies and snaggle-toothed street people in downtown San Francisco.

We paid $1.75 for a 12 ounce bottle. Lagunitas (that’s Lah-GOO-KNEE-tuss) is made in Petaluma, California. LBC’s IPA struck us as watery and not quite right, but this pale ale was quite good.

Pretty amber-copper color, a thin head…a nice easy ale that has good flavor, a nice balance between sweet malt and crisp hops, and a finish that bites but softly. Well done. (Rating: Very Good) For further info, contact Lagunitas at http://www.lagunitas.com.

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Gin and Regulation: A Lesson in a Bottle

Uncle Vals Peppered Gin LabelThere is a bottle that sits on my desk which serves as irrefutable proof that less regulation is better than more.

Pull the stopper top and a remarkable aroma plumes forth. “I’d wear this as cologne,” a colleague remarked. He’s a clean-cut fellow, mind you, not a gutter dipsomaniac. “That’s really nice,” exclaimed another.

This 90-proof liquor’s scents come from juniper, cucumber, lemon, sage, lavender, black pepper, red bell peppers and pimento. It is Uncle Val’s Peppered Gin, made by 35 Maple Street Spirits in Sonoma, California.

Gin, you ask? Is that not the water-clear hooch from the United Kingdom that smells like pine needles? Yes, often gins are made in the London Dry style (think Beefeater). But gin need not ooze juniper.

And here’s where federal regulation comes in. In the United States, the definitions of various liquors are not spelled out in prolix laws. Our drinks are loosely defined in laconic regulations. The Code of Federal Regulations, volume 27, section 5.22(c) lays out the “standards of identity” for gin. It reads:

“…a product obtained by original distillation from mash, or by redistillation of distilled spirits, or by mixing neutral spirits, with or over juniper berries and other aromatics, or with or over extracts derived from infusions, percolations, or maceration of such materials, and includes mixtures of gin and neutral spirits. It shall derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries and be bottled at not less than 80° proof.”

So long as it meets the basic production requirement and its main flavor is juniper berries, it may be labeled gin. I hasten to add that there is another version of Uncle Val’s gin flavored with rose petals. Whether the gin is made in London or Sonoma is no matter. Indeed some of the most interesting gins – including barrel-aged ones – are today made in places likePhiladelphia; Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; and Middleton, Wis.

Simplicity in federal rules allows entrepreneurial distillers room to be creative and we, the people, benefit. Would that the government followed suit in regulations generally, which at last word comprised more than 170,000 pages.

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New Amsterdam Gin No. 485

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Gin from California? Why the Hell not.

This spirit is, as advertised, “exceptionally smooth.” It is a modest 80 proof, the typical potency for dpirits, but a bit less potent than many gins. (Beefeater, for example, is 94 proof, and navy strength gins run north of 100 proof.)

Like Baffert’s, Blue Coat, and other new brands of gin, New Amsterdam eschews the London Dry model. It goes light on piney Juniper, and puts its emphasis on citrus notes. Vidka lovers should consider getting a bottle of this gin and tucking it in the freezer. At $25 for a 1.75 liter bottle, New Amsterdam is more than worth the price. (Rating: Good)

For more information, surf to http://NewAmsterdamSpirits.com.

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