Being asked to travel more than 5,000 miles to brew a new beer and sample plenty of others falls into the 'well, if you insist' category.

Fortunately for me, that was the mission that came across my desk courtesy of Lagunitas.

On this side of the Pond, the California based brewery is best known for its IPA and Daytime IPA, which was launched in the UK earlier this year.

Hopefully in a few months' time it will also be known for introducing an unforgettable hazy beer into a select number of UK pubs and bars.

For this was what I and a few other writers and operators set about creating when we visited Lagunitas' Petaluma base last week.

Our first mission, upon arrival at the 680,000 barrel capacity brewery (it also has another twice the size in Chicago) was to tuck into a breakfast burrito and a Bloody Mary so large that it could cure any hangover and almost guarantee another the following day.

This might sound like the perk of a jolly (it was) but this was also a brewery that was founded by dropout stoner Tony Magee in his kitchen in the early 1990s but is now 100% owned by Heineken, showing that its culture has not been changed by the big brewery investment. This was further enhanced by staff being encouraged to bring dogs to work (there were a lot of dogs) and a vibe so relaxed you half expect the fermenting vessels to get the munchies.

Sam Thompson (below), one of many employees with impressive facial hair and an excellent t-shirt and head gear collection, took us through a selection of malts for us to consider for the beer.



Interestingly, crystal malt from our very own shores was one of the options. The sweetness of the UK malt ensures it receives similar reverence stateside to what we tend to reserve for hops from America.

Hops of course were also on our menus and we were given another dozen or so to rub and sniff before coming to a group decision about out preferred combination.

This was helped by the process of Hop Vapin. It might look like a scene from Breaking Bad but this is a great way of testing the aroma that arises from your chosen hop combo.

Hops are placed in the volcano vaporizer, heated, and the vapour is captured. Give the bag a squeeze, and once you get over the feeling that you are doing something illegal, you can get a great idea of how your beer is going to smell.



Actually, while we are kind of on the subject of hops (and its close relative cannabis), California is one of a handful of states where marijuana is now fully legal. Lagunitas has tapped into this market with the production of Hi-Fi Hops, which is infused with THC (basically the part of cannabis that gets you high).



Laws strictly prohibit cannabis beers or even THC products being sold in pubs and bars.

However, with the UK so often following in the footsteps of our American cousins, this psychoactive sector could be an indicator of things to come and further challenge the UK on-trade.

...but back to the beer.

After selecting the malts and the hops, we mashed in and a little later got to sample the wort. I've always been a fan of wort and wonder if this is an opportunity in the zero beer market? As a back to basics kind of guy I'd happily sip this accompanied with a bar snack of crystal malt in a half pint glass.

The next stage was coming up with a name for the beer. Not as easy as it sounds, especially as the complication of having to come back to the UK meant we had to do this before trying the finished product.

The brands and marketing guys at the brewery gave us plenty of tips: be original, make it relevant to the drink and don't go for an in-joke from your trip to California.

All of which we completely ignored as we came up with a series of pale ale puns (it's not a pale ale) about our adventures in Californian bars, beaches and woodland areas. Most were already taken by other breweries – unsurprising when you consider there are more than 1,000 breweries in California alone, that's more than any other state.

We eventually whittled it down to a few that Lagunitas will run by its legal team before (probably) coming up with something wittier and more relevant itself.



The next stage will see the beer transported across to the UK for a launch at Beds&Bars and The Collective, both who were part of the team making the beer in Petaluma.

If you see it and are lucky enough to try this hazy original brew, please spare a thought for the sacrifice and hard work that brought it to you...