When you think of Lagunitas Brewing Co. you probably think of the California beer that you can find in any supermarket across the states. Though widespread and with multiple breweries in multiple states, craft beer and innovation is the name of the game, more specifically, head brewer Dan Schmelzer’s game at Lagunitas Seattle Taproom and Beer Sanctuary.
Opened in 2017 in Hilliard Beer’s old space after it was bought out by Odin Brewing Co., Lagunitas offers its core beers and then a variety of Schmelzer’s own creations made right here in Seattle. Out of the 30-plus taps the taproom has, there are usually 15 or more beers on tap that are Schmelzer’s.
The “Homegrown Series” includes a Hama Hama stout using Hood Canal Hama Hama smoked oysters and a chocolate-inspired Imperial stout using Theo’s Chocolate cacao nibs. Schmelzer discusses the creativity allowed in his job and some of the things people can find and look forward to on their next visit to the taproom.
1) How do you stay on-brand as Lagunitas but brew independent beer as well?
As a brewer just in general, I have this philosophy of I try to keep one foot in respect and reverence for tradition but then I keep one foot in just unbridled creativity. Like, “What can we do? Let’s try weird stuff.” And I feel that’s kind of been Lagunitas’ kind of philosophy from the start. We, as a company, try to not pigeonhole ourselves into a style like the weirder, the better kind of thing with experimentation with hops and all that kind of stuff. I guess I’ve always shared that philosophy toward brewing and the art of brewing. And so I’m able to have free rein to do what I want to do with keeping the brand continuity intact.
2) Which one of your beers right now that you have on tap are you most proud of, or most excited about right now?
I did a beer called Diamonds and Sauce IPA, which the name references a type of way to extract hop concentrates, a way to preserve the terpene character of that concentrate, and I try to kind of take that philosophy towards the brew. It was a collaboration of sorts between me and the head brewer down in (Lagunitas) Petaluma, Jeremy Marshall, in California. It was an idea that both of us kind of had — just trying to take the juicy/hazy craze and see what we can get out of the hop. And we’ve been working with terpenes specifically, which are the flavor of the molecule of the makeup, specific flavors, and trying to preserve as much of that out of the hop as possible.
3) You got your start in Chicago brewing, so you have a little bit of an outside perspective of the Seattle beer community and industry. How would you characterize Seattle beer drinkers?
Naturally, our proximity to the hop capital of the world has a lot to do with that. I think in general it’s very hop driven because of that, and it’s not only just hop driven, but they want the new flavor on the block… For one thing, they’re very educated. And they’re also very eager and hungry to get the next flavor that’s going to come around.
4) Are there any projects or beers you have going on that you’re looking forward to?
Currently, I have a saison blend. I brewed two different saisons with two different malt bills, two different yeast strains and blended those together. Those are currently sitting in a 55-hectoliter foeder that I have from a winery in Walla Walla and I added a string of Brettanomyces. So I took that specifically and I’ve acquired some gin barrels from distillers around town, and I filled them up. That’s what I’m probably most excited about, it’s a gin barrel-aged saison blend.