Lagunitas’ owner calls out MillerCoors, A-B InBev on Twitter

tony magee barrels

Tony Magee kegstand (photo credit: Redtail Media, Jeffrey Neal)

UPDATE: More from Tony Magee.

(Petaluma, CA) – Lagunitas Brewing founder and owner, Tony Magee, drew a line in the sand on Tuesday between what he perceives as “us” (craft brewers/beer people) and “them” (A-B InBev and MillerCoors). A-B InBev bought then-craft brewery, Goose Island, early last year. MillerCoors, meanwhile, is making strides in the ‘better beer’ segment with its portfolio of brands under the Tenth and Blake division.

What do you think about A-B InBev and MillerCoors’ efforts with respect to craft beer over the past 18 months?

Read Magee’s tweets below.


26 thoughts on “Lagunitas’ owner calls out MillerCoors, A-B InBev on Twitter

  1. “We are not even of the larger world.We belong to u. They believe u belong to them. U conjured us & nurtured us. U’re a demographic to them.”

    140 charas of PURE truth to (mis-perceived) ‘power’ ▌ Na zdravi, Tony!

  2. I don’t think that all of what he’s stating is true, AB/InBev is making great progress with Goose Island because they understood that for Goose to staying being a winner they will not be involved in a process that is already established. Goose still being Manage by the same people and the BrewMaster is the same one!

    I don’t know about MillerCoors people and to be honest I could care less about them, don’t follow them and don’t plan to…

    For Me a Artisan Beer lover I don’t like to go overboard about a theme if I don’t have all the information so I found some of the tweets to be unrespectful.

    But I guess that’s just Me and my opinion…

  3. I love Goose Island’s brews but will no longer carry them in may tavern. I respect the quality and creativity of the Tenth and Blake brews but will not carry them either. Neither AB-InBev nor SABMiller needs my money. They have plenty, and throw it around too much for my tastes. Sending money their way would just encourage them to continue buying up “market demographics”.

  4. I think Tony’s comments are important because they at least insinuate a(nother) potential distinction between the mentality of upper-level management at craft breweries versus large multinational corporations.

    Craft: How do we maintain/improve the QUALITY of our beer; how do we INNOVATE process; how do we expand our business RESPONSIBLY; how do we recruit/retain talented and PASSIONATE employees; how do we tell our story and connect with beer fans in a SINCERE and meaningful way?

    MNC: How do we CASH IN on a budding concept; how do we BLUR the lines between quality and commodity; how do we CRUSH the efforts of those in our industry; how much MONEY does it take to maintain/grow our position in market x, y, z; what brand can we CANNIBALIZE and for how much?

    This is about the way these different types of companies are managed, which—despite what’s inside the can/bottle/keg—I think is immensely important to think about.

  5. I’m glad the big guys are starting to create “craft” portfolios. I think it’s a good thing for the industry as a whole. I’d still rather pick up a six-pack made in my neighborhood or state, but the sheer amount of beer AB-Inbev and Coors put out is certainly a feat in and of itself and worthy of at least little respect.

  6. Goose Island is crappy beer anyways, so let them learn what they want from them. They have maybe 2 good beers relative to the other REAL beer brewers in America and Europe.

  7. How on Earth can you call Goose Island crappy? Their limited release beers are outstanding and their other beers are excellent. 2012 BCS is an example of how they are improving, not that BCS really needed improvement. Bringing the Nut Brown back was a great decision, had it on draft and it was solid. Just sick of people trying to find fault in Goose that really isn’t there. That being said I think the earlier comment was untrue, their brewer (son of the founder) actually did leave to start a Cider company after AB bought them… As for Lagunitas owner, he says what he feels and although I don’t always agree with him I respect him.

  8. I have never felt that any brew from Lagunitad was drinkable, enjoyable, or refreshing. I would prefer another perspective.

  9. I buy local beer. I live hundreds of miles from a big brewery. They think they are “god” in the beer world. They are not. I switched buying their beer 5 years ago and don’t miss it. I love our local brewery and the one offs they come out with. I can talk to the brewer when I go and buy his beer. Try that with the big boys, nope, the elevator doesn’t go to the top of their ivory tower.

  10. Completely OT, I think it’s kinda hilarious that he used “U’re” as an abbreviation for “you’re”, which itself is a contraction for “you are”… which he could’ve typed more simply as UR, two characters instead of four.

    Sorry, I’m a total dork and that just jumped out at me. 🙂

  11. As boogers, everyone have 1 and everyone are entitled to different opinions… But reading some of this makes me wonder if no one is getting the message that in today’s Industry(micro, small, mid-level or big) is and always be a business and if anyone says different is a flat out lie!

    Don’t get me wrong I love all the artisan beers and the offerings from all sorts of beer life, but I don’t dismiss the offerings from the big Companies, why?, because for me is the product is not the producer and if they have a good beer that I really like I most definitely will buy it, I will drink it and I will promote it among friends.

    Can anyone tell Me if your local Brewery don’t want to make money?, or if they are giving their products to you free of cost? I go to My local Brewing Co. as often as I can and I talk with the owner too, but I always pay for My Beers… Don’t you all?

  12. @Eli

    Thanks for the comment. I think what Tony is underscoring is that when you choose to be a patron of certain small businesses, there is an additional opportunity there to be more than just a customer. Example: someone may buy Great Divide off of the shelf but may also be a regular at the taproom, become friends with the workers, become a part of the brewery in a way. Not saying I agree or disagree. Yes, it is a business but every business is still run by human beings and it is clear that, to some extent, craft’s growth is driven by a deeper connection with the human beings that run those businesses versus A-B InBev (for example). That said, you are right to suggest that large companies have the ability to produce beer just as high in quality as smaller companies.

  13. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I know at least in Colorado Lagunitas is distributed by Coors Distributing Company. Sounds like a good old case of your great when we need you but don’t like what you stand for.

    At what point does money trump the “Soul” of your company? New Belgium? Sam Adams? Both have good beers but can they be considered “Craft” anymore not that their production is on a large scale? At what point did Blue moon lose it’s “craft” title. It was started independently as one of the first craft companies but as soon as miller coors bought them they left that title behind.

  14. To Casey- Better that we should just shut up and go along to get along and hope someone will accidentally sell our beer? I expect you’d want a brewer with some intestinal fortitude.

    Eli- the thing that they are doing that is so deceitful is that they are now working behind the scenes trying hard to get distributors and retailers to feature brands they believe are important (theirs) and to move ALL the others to the warm shelf if they carry them at all. The first thing they needed was a beer they were selling a lot of so they could claim some measure of credibility with the distributors and retailers. Call it a Trojan horse.

    BeerNerd- I just thought that U’re looked crazy enough to be funny, but it was cumbersome…thanks for noticing! Murphy- drink local. No reason not to. I don’t wanna sell to you what you mightta bought from them. Kewl, that is.

    LocalBeerBlog- if they make great beer, that is great. But they are wanting. To use that platform to fuck with us independents. Smaller than us will suffer more if they are successful. drink their flavor beers and you are assisting them in that effort.

    Eli- the same people are NOT still making the business decisions at Goose and since you work for ABI (the internet is not really so anonymous) you already know that.

    I am quite certain that Craft beer is at a precarious inflection point. This is the most dynamic and volitile time in the category called Craft’s short and meteoric history. There is enuf of what we do now being sold in the market that the biggest brewers in the world want in and the big brewers within Craft want to close the door behind themselves. I think we’ll be ok one way or the other but smaller brewers will experience a future with more limited opportunities- that is IF the biggest brewers are allowed to have their way.

    When you drink those beers, delicious or not, you support the platform they will use to change the game. Lagunitas is not so big that we are in the entitlement class but we are big enuf to see the landscape and I may seem like the angry complaining brewer but I’ve been doing this long enuf now that I am done being silent about real threats to what we brewers all do and to what you consumers (our owners) have available to them. It may seem a strange stage, but is still all about y’all.


  15. Thanks Tony! I love pretty much everything you make and I appreciate your position and honesty, especially coming from a place of such experience. Now if only you could secure a Canadian distributor so I could get your beer in Victoria, BC – I’d miss home perhaps a little less.

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  17. Tony – Yes is true that I work for one of the Distribution Companies that sell some of the AB/InBev products it is also true that My Co. also sold others brands from different countries and non-affiliate with AB.

    In addition to that is very relevant that I’m a Certified Beer Server and a “Artisan Beer Lover at Heart”.

    I’m a supporter of all Artisan Brewers and Beers that are sold here and the local Breweries, I completely understand that the relation between consumer(real people) and the Owners of the local Breweries is very different because of the nature of the business/relations of trust and love.

    Always keep your enthusiasm, that same enthusiasm is the one that will be put in your beers and that is awesome!!

    Keep up the good work and don’t worry about the Big companies, it took a lot of years for the industry and the consumers to see that Artisan Beer is way better and is more interesting than wines(nothing against the wine industry I also like wines)… So time will give Artisan Beer the rightfully place in the Industry! Cheers!!

  18. I think the point (correct me if I’m wrong, Tony) is the approach and the lens with which the brewer and his team views the customer.

    As someone who works in PR and social media, I’ll draw it up this way:

    The companies who are great at social media are the ones that engage their consumers – akin to the engagement you’ll get out of a small craft brewery that values you as a customer.

    The companies that are garbage at social media are the ones that pontificate and share only their successes, don’t acknowledge or engage their users, etc – similar to the big beer companies that view you as a dollar sign won or lost.

    I had the pleasure of spending two weeks touring almost all of the breweries in Denver and FoCo – it was a really eye-opening experience.

  19. Tony – I completely agree with you. The ABI distributors I have dealt with are flat out arrogant and won’t do any legwork for the supplier. MillerCoors houses are too cluttered; same with liquor distributors. Smart move being with Windy City in Chicago – I think brewers should have the option to self distribute.

    I wish more brewers would have the guts you have to call out ABI & Miller for the dishonest slimeball ethics they’ve perpetuated for over 100 years. I’m in a market where cooler space is allocated based on the wholesaler’s percentage of volume… these a-hole distributors don’t understand that it’s just as healthy- and more fair – for a retailer’s cooler to be one slot per brand. Many markets where the BMC brewers are NOT located, this is the case! Why do I need 4 packs, 6 packs, 12 packs, 18 packs, 20 packs, and 30 packs of Bud Light? WHY?

    I feel sorry for the brewers who have used the services of the East Coast broker who over the last couple years has convinced craft brewers to “utilize the strength” of the ABI network. These are the same wholesalers who decided it would be an intelligent business decision 15 years ago to participate in 100% share-of-mind. And just NOW these distributors have seen the light? ABI brands – every single one – are priority brands for displays, tap handles, etc. before any particular non-equity brand is represented. And if it is, it’s the brewer with the most cash (because ABI salesmen are flat out lazy and are only motivated by cash) whose beer is put on tap – a rotating tap. ABI houses are loyal to one supplier and one supplier only – ABI. For all we know, these distributors are collecting brands simply so they don’t grow! I know of one particular wholesaler in my area who stated they picked up brands specifically because they didn’t want another wholesaler to pick it up! How arrogant! How dishonest!

    I could write a lot more about this, but I think the headaches I could write about wholesalers are the same every small brewer has to put up with.

    Screw it – ban the three tier system and let every brewer have the right to distribute his/her own product. And be VOCAL guys! If more brewers were like Tony and educated the public about what ABI & MillerCoors (and to an extent, their wholesalers) pull on a daily basis, I think you’d see droves more people support the small brewer!

    Rock on Tony, Rock on!

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  22. There is an important detail here; ABI and MillerCoors/BlueMoon distributors are largely very independent people, they do not promote programs like this that threaten small brewers and they don’t push us off of the shelves with the products the mega brewers make. The distributors are mostly friends of craft themselves and some if them are our distributors too. It’s the large brewers who are trying to convince large retailers (grocery stores and c stores) to marginalized small brewers. It’s not really about distributors….

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