Brewer Highlight Winter 2019

TONY MAGEE of Lagunitas

Tony Magee, Lagunitas founder
Tony Magee, Lagunitas founder

Did you ever wonder who designs the labels and writes the crazy, funny stories that appear on the bottles & cans of Lagunitas? It’s all the work of the brewery’s founder Tony Magee.

He is undoubtedly the personality behind the brand. And until very recently, Magee also created each recipe for the company’s award-winning beers – from scratch.

Petaluma Taproom

Since he opened the doors to his brewery back in 1993, Magee has made it his mission to never brew a beer that’s merely a rendition of someone else’s product. Constantly on the lookout for new ingredients and ways to surprise & delight the palate of anyone who cares to sample his wares, Magee also wants Lagunitas beer to have personality, and of course, great taste.

Creative, charismatic and always irreverent, the guy who once named a beer after his favorite band (“Wilco Tango Foxtrot”) continues to keep Lagunitas, and craft beer itself, on its toes.

In 1992, Tony Magee got a homebrew kit for Christmas that forever changed his life (and craft beer as we know it). A few batches later, Magee invested $35,000 into brewing equipment and officially launched his own brewery. Fast-forward to 2019, Magee is the head of Lagunitas Brewing Co. which lays claim to the #1 IPA in the U.S., and so much more.

Draught Lines sat down with Magee to find out what’s in store for one of the most innovative breweries out there.


Draught Lines (D.L.) Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick. Whose dog is on all the Lagunitas labels?

Tony Magee (T.M.) It’s not mine or anyone else’s. We were inspired by Petey, the dog on The Little Rascals TV show.

D.L. We’ve been reading a lot about how crowded the craft beer market is getting, but Lagunitas continues to see booming success. How do you stay ahead of the game?

T.M. Lagunitas thrives on the edge of edgy brewing, and we’ve seen some good results. We are the largest craft brewery gaining share this year and our IPA remains the #1 IPA in the U.S..

D.L. There are some rumors swirling that you have big plans for that IPA this year. Can you give us a look under the hood at those developments?

T.M. Yes! We released our IPA in cans! It’s the same recipe, the same ruthlessly delicious beer, but in vessels that can go more places than ever before. 19.2 oz. cans are available now and 12 oz. cans will follow this spring.

D.L. Are there other Lagunitas favorites we can expect to see in cans this year?

T.M. Yup. DayTime is hitting shelves with brand-new packaging. We believe the packaging of this low cal, low ABV, easy-drinking beer should reflect the beer itself. A 6-pack of 12 oz. cans seems fitting for any daytime activity… don’t you think? And our 19.2 oz. cans continue to crush. 12th of Never & Sumpin’ Easy are the #2 & #3 best-selling 19.2 oz. packages in the U.S.. There was a time we said we’d never put our beer in a can… and what did we do? We came out with two within two years!

Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas Brewmaster
Jeremy Marshall, Lagunitas Brewmaster

D.L. Generally, what do you see for the future of craft beer? How does Lagunitas fit into that landscape?

T.M. We’ve seen industry shifts before and we’re confident that we have the right team and beers to succeed in this environment. Craft is certainly going to shift and change further, especially with the introduction of greater cannabis experimentation, but we don’t see the love and pull for good craft beer going anywhere.

D.L. Is the new frontier in beer, cannabis-infused?

T.M. We think so! This year we launched the first-ever, legally available (in California) THC and CBD-infused sparkling water from a major brewery. Hi-Fi Hops, which is available with either 5 mg THC and 5 mg CBD or 10 mg THC, launched in July through our partnership with CannaCraft. It’s available in California dispensaries. Hi-Fi Hops is an IPA-inspired sparkling beverage made using everything we know about hops, but with zero alcohol, zero calories and zero carbs.

D.L. Your double IPA, Super Cluster, also made a huge splash last year. Can we expect to see more in 2019?

T.M. Oh, yeah. It’s getting an even wider release. Super Cluster is a favorite around our breweries and it did very well for us as a limited release in 2018. This citra-hopped, mega ale has the highest ABV of any beer in our can lineup. It’s now available year-round in 6-pack cans. We’re looking forward to being able to drink it all year long!

D.L. What’s something that even Lagunitas super-fans might be surprised to discover about your brewery?

T.M. We’re one of only a few American craft breweries to have a huge presence overseas. We often think the best way to make new friends is to share a beer – and we’re excited to bring more beer to our friends in Europe. Our IPA is available in 15 European countries, with 10 more countries joining our IPA family in the next 24 months. In countries like France, Netherlands and the UK, Lagunitas sales double in size year-after-year, so we’re seeing a lot of love for our IPA.

D.L. Word is that one of our favorite Lagunitas offerings, Aunt Sally, is on its way to retirement. Is that true?

T.M. Unfortunately, yes. Our dry-hopped sour is headed for retirement. But, more sours are on the horizon! Sally was our first venture into the world of sours. It opened new doors for innovation. By putting Sally on the sidelines for now, we can explore new and exciting sours. Sucks is also on its way into early retirement, but next year we will be introducing some new collabs and brews with surprising ingredients. Stay tuned!

D.L. What can we expect from your One-Hitter, limited offerings series this year?

T.M. Born Yesterday, Cherry Jane and Willettized Coffee Stout are a few of the offerings set to return this year – plus a few more surprises I can’t go into just yet. But, get them while you can because these beers disappear quickly!


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Draught Lines

Draught Lines is a seasonal magazine dedicated to the craft beer experience.