Beer drinking and storytelling are two activities that go hand-in-hand. Barstools are full of storytellers that spin fantastic yarns over cold brews on a daily basis. But, a beer new to the Jacksonville area and now tapped at the Park St., San Marco, and Jacksonville Beach locations of European Street has the story to tell this time. And Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Co. has quite a story to tell.
The label on the bottle of the beer hints that the story is not one that sits well with Tony Magee, the owner and brewmaster at Lagunitas. In tiny type on the edge of the label his diatribe says, “From the first day of the first congress at the moment of the passage of the first law, we became weaker.
The extra-large B. Franklin said it well that you can tell the strength of a society by the paucity of the pages in its book of laws – Tax laws, civil law, criminal law, Statutes and Bills. Laws that make large and small criminals of us all.”
The label refers to the 2005 investigation and subsequent shut-down of the brewery for 20 days the next January that resulted from complaints of parties on breweries premises. The parties were said to include food, beer, loud music, and – perhaps most damning – marijuana usage. The investigation took place over two-months with investigators going to the weekly parties undercover to see for themselves what was going on.
According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control public information officer John Carr, officers attended parties over an eight-week period to determine whether partygoers were dealing in drugs. During a St. Patrick’s Day party at the brewery the officers revealed their investigation by showing their badges and arresting one employee and patron.
Punishment came to the brewery in the form of a 20-day shut-down in January of 2006, which Magee used to install a planned new bottling line.
Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is called “especially bitter ale” to commemorate the bust and shut-down of the brewery. Later Magee, not none for his quiet demeanor, said, “This beer, I wanted it to be a knuckle sandwich. It’s big, it’s bitter and it’s angry. It’s unrepentant, and it’s unforgiving.”
And Magee, is right in those characterizations. The brew weighs in with 10.1% ABV and 74 IBUs. Popular beer rating website Beer Advocate gives the brew an 89 out of 100 points. One reviewer on the site left comments referring to the beer as, “Barleywine-like strength with well-kilned grains and citrus hops.” Another said, “Interesting. Both the hops and toasted malt appear upfront, then the bitterness hits on the finish.”
But, drinker beware, a few pints of this brew could lead to a few of your own stories. Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is available until supplies are exhausted at European Street.