Lagunitas, one of the country’s fastest growing craft beer brands, has announced a deal to sell 50% of the company to Heineken. Founder Tony Magee, who had criticized other brewers who sold out to Anheuser Busch, said this deal is different because Heineken is a family owned company that brews their flagship beer only with malts, no adjuncts. And he said the deal will allow him to pursue the goal of globalizing American craft beer.
Magee told the Chicago tribune, “This relationship is about the world — beginning in Mexico. There is no U.S. craft beer sold legally in Mexico — there’s some pirated stuff brought over — but it’s a big place and there are a lot of beer lovers there who don’t know yet that they have an appetite for American craft beer.”
I’m not quite sure about the “no craft beer sold there legally” assertion. The Brewers Association says a few breweries are exporting to Mexico. But still, that country is seen as a potentially booming new market for American beers. The Brewers Association just conducted a federally- funded study of opportunities there, which determined Mexican consumers don’t yet know much about craft beer and will need to be educated.
That said, craft breweries are beginning to pop up in Mexico, many in the Tijuana area just south of San Diego, which is, after all, one of America’s great brewery towns. I have found some excellent Mexican brewed craft beer in Puerto Vallarta. – especially Minerva, and especially their ITA (Imperial Tequila Ale).
Globally American craft beer sales were up nearly 36% in 2014. Strategic partnerships with foreign brewers would seem to be a smart business move to make the most of world markets. Tony Magee wrote on his blog, “This is not the end of anything at all at Lagunitas, except maybe it is the end of the beginning, meaning that we are now standing at the threshold of an historic opportunity to export the excitement and vibe of American-born Craft Brewing and meet beer-lovers all over the Planet Earth, our true homeland. This could one day even be seen as a crucial victory for American Craft Brewing.
By the way, in the official press release I say that we’ll be available from Mongolia to the far-flung ‘Isles of Langerhans’. Those lovely sounding islets are actually some tiny structures inside your pancreas and I stole that from the Firesign Theater. Everything comes from somewhere, and Lagunitas comes from the U.S.of A. ….available everywhere soon! Cheers, to the ongoing victory of American Craft brewing….!
You have to root for a guy who loves Firesign Theatre.
PS: Even before this deal was announced, Michael Ferguson was talking about brewery buyouts - and alternatives - in his latest First Draft on the Beer Geeks Facebook page:
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