Lagunitas founder Tony Magee, the guy responsible for Hop Stoopid, A Little Sumpin’ Extra and Lagunitas Sucks, recently partnered with Heineken. His decision to join forces with the international brewer hinged on a question he knew he would have to answer someday, “Do I want to make more beer to say ‘thank you’ to the people who’ve said they love us? Or do I want to say ‘no’ to my customers who say, ‘won’t you make more’? We’d like to make more.”
Magee takes us “Behind the Suds” to explain why he wants to produce more beer in a joint venture with Heineken.
D.L. Why is Heineken the right partner for Lagunitas?
T.M. I found people there who live and breathe beer, beer culture and beer community. Many people may not know this, but the person who controls the company, over 50% shareholder, is its founder’s great-granddaughter. It is still a family run business.
Another meaningful thing about Heineken is that they don’t use any adjuncts in their beer recipe. That’s a decision only a brewer would make and it shows affection for their product that extends all the way to the mash tun.
D.L. What will change day-to-day at Lagunitas?
D.L. What has been the overall feedback about your partnership?
T.M. Positive. There have been the isolated reactions of sellout and such, but with some time, they’ve had a chance to look deeper. There’s a big difference between selling the entire business and partnering. We’ve been talking to retailers across the country and things are very cool. In the end, people want us to do our thing, and that we will do.
D.L. Where do you see the craft beer industry in the future?
T.M. The thing that I am most proud of in all of this is that we were able to lead Heineken to an understanding that U.S. craft brewing has the potential to be central to the future of beer on the same planet. Through Heineken’s distribution system, we will have the opportunity to bring our ideas of brewing and community, as well as the U.S. craft idea itself, to communities all over the world.