In 1987, a college student named Tony Amaral needed a job that would allow him to attend school as well as pursue his dream of becoming a professional baseball player, so a local, family-owned beer distributor hired him to work in breakage and load trucks. The baseball career didn’t pan out, but Amaral spent the next 30 years learning everything he could about selling beer. When the family sold the business, he looked for a position with a brewery he admired – Lagunitas.
As it turned out, the feeling was mutual. Lagunitas, the OG brewery that practically defined the American IPA, recognized Amaral’s talent. The Pride of Petaluma, California wanted this guy on their team.
Amaral played a vital role in determining the direction a “reimagined” Lagunitas would take in the years to come. The work was intense, but it was a challenge Amaral and his colleagues gladly accepted. The results speak for themselves, but Draught Lines wanted the details. Here’s what he had to say.
Draught Lines (DL): Lagunitas went “all in” with IPAs and they’ve been very successful. What was that discussion like?
Tony Amaral (TA): The style is still on fire. They are now just under 50% of all craft sold, according to Nielsen. That’s why we brew an IPA to satisfy the palate of every beer drinker. IPAs are our big bet, so we retooled the brewery (a hefty financial commitment) to have all the IPA brewing capacity we needed.
DL: Lagunitas products now have a new look. Why the change?
TA: After surveying consumers, we learned that “Lagunitas” has high brand awareness and is most associated with “quality and taste.” And we found out that the dog featured on our packaging still intrigues consumers, but they think it looks a bit too sad. As we imagined what our next 30 years would be like, these were the kinds of things we knew we had to address. Those surveyed also told us that they didn’t like the way our products looked all together on the shelf. Soon at retail you’ll see a happier dog and brands that look like they belong together. Shoppers were put off by our high-quality products looking like a “garage sale on a shelf!” Not anymore. Everything really was reimagined and we’re super proud of the results. What you see wasn’t done by an agency. The Lagunitas in-house marketing team did everything.
DL: There’s no doubt that Lagunitas is an IPA powerhouse, which explains why people really like Island Beats (your new tropical-flavored IPA). Why also include beverages like Disorderly TeaHouse in your portfolio?
TA: At 20 IBUs and only 5% alcohol, Island Beats is for those who want a less bitter/more fruit-forward craft option. The mango, guava and passion fruit flavors come from hops, nothing else. That speaks to the Lagunitas commitment to make an IPA for everyone. But we still encourage our brewers to be creative and develop things like Disorderly TeaHouse. As we thought about the seltzer boom, we realized there are occasions when people want other kinds of refreshment. Beverages with a lower ABV, fewer calories, but with full flavor. Disorderly TeaHouse fits that bill. It’s a brewed, sparkling hard tea made by Lagunitas’ master brewers. We use premium fresh guayusa [gwai-YOO-suh] tea leaves, sourced from indigenous Ecuadorian farmers that are 100% natural, 100% hand-selected and 100% hand-harvested.
DL: Tell us about your success in the NA category with Hoppy Refresher hop water and your non-alcoholic beer, IPNA.
TA: Our IPNA sales have grown by 25% in year two of its launch and Hoppy Refresher doubled its business in 2020 and 2021. Hoppy Refresher 6-pack cans (replacing bottles) are available now, followed by a 12-pack that will include the original and two new flavors: Blood Orange and Berry-Lemon. In the spring of 2023, we’ll be releasing 16 oz. cans of all three flavors.
DL: What else can fans get excited about in the second half of 2022 and into 2023?
TA: We’ll be releasing two more variety packs before the end of the year: one is a Disorderly Varie-Tea 12-pack, featuring a new flavor, Peach Slice. We also have a new 19.2 oz. can offering as well. Because the San Francisco Bay Area is where Mai Tais became popular, our brewers went crazy developing a cocktail-inspired, 10% ABV hazy IPA they named Tiki Fusion Zombie. It will be out in February.