Lagunitas owner on craft beer’s “precarious inflection point”

lagunitas brewing logoLagunitas Brewing Co. owner and founder, Tony Magee, chimed into the comments in yesterday’s BeerPulse post. This excerpt captures Magee’s sentiments more succinctly than yesterday’s tweets in case you missed them.

I am quite certain that Craft beer is at a precarious inflection point. This is the most dynamic and volatile time in the category called Craft’s short and meteoric history. There is enough 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 enough to see the landscape and I may seem like the angry complaining brewer but I’ve been doing this long enough 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.

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7 thoughts on “Lagunitas owner on craft beer’s “precarious inflection point”

  1. Pingback: Lagunitas’ owner calls out MillerCoors, A-B InBev on Twitter | BeerPulse

  2. Very intriguing quote coming from a company that brews great beer at a reasonable price. Mr. Magee, your views encourage me to DRINK SMALL!! CHEERS to the craft beer brewers willing to keep it real!

  3. I am interested to see how two things play out in the near future.

    First, I respect Tony greatly and believe he has more than earned the right to a strong opinion in the brewing industry. I am confident Lagunitas will continue to thrive and grow for many years to come. The consequence of such growth is, for lack of a better word, “corporatism”. It will be interesting to see if Tony changes his tune as he gets larger. Contrary to popular belief, many of the “big beer” people I know are not downright evil – they view what they are doing as not only logical, but necessary for their business. It may be that any smart businessman would act similarly. Maybe this is the fate of all the most successful craft brewers.

    Second, I believe he is correct regarding new breweries having a very difficult time. As Jim Koch recently mentioned, we may be on the cusp of a bubble. However, I think this is a different type of bubble than many people are used to. While I believe the number of breweries in operation is higher than it will be in the near future, I believe the quantity of craft beer made and sold is only going to continue to increase. Fewer players with a larger section of the pie.

    But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

  4. I think what Tony is getting at is that the Craft beer industry was and is being built on just that; “craft”. its kind of the perfect model of democracy, the people(the end consumer) are really the ones that decide who becomes successful in this business. sure, “drink local” has a certain amount of pull, but i will be the first to tell you that I have had just as much bad beer as good in my local market. Local sustainability is super trendy, not just for the beer industry but for any consumable good really. I take a little bit of super-hippie earth-firster pride when i am able to purchase my goods from a local vendor, and feel that heroic feeling of sticking it to johnny corpo. but just like any business, once it becomes a numbers game, and not a quaility game, i guess then the game is over. I would support the largest super comany in the world if i knew that the product was quaility, and the craftsmanship was not sacrificed because of the size and income of the company.
    It says it on every single package that rolls out of the Lagunitas Brewing Company doors; “beer speaks. people mumble.” so simple, but can be translated with such complexity. if you make a quality product that you are proud of and can stand behind, that is all that matters. there should be know concerns of the new kids in town. the people make their choice regardless.

  5. I’ve been saying this for years: the only reason the big guys aren’t blowing craft out of the water is because our segment hasn’t been a money maker the way light beer has. As our segment continues to grow and become more successful that ceases to be true. It’s not like MillerCoors is incapable of creating a flavor-forward beer, they just don’t. As soon as one of those companies decides to shift gears a lot of little breweries are in a lot of trouble. Somebody like MillerCoors has the resources to put more and more skus on a shelf and a small producer will fall by the wayside unless their beer is phenomenal or incredibly unique.

    I can’t wait to see what the beer landscape looks like in 5 years. We’re going to see some big changes.

  6. Pingback: Goose Island CEO, John Hall, stepping down, A-B InBev exec taking over | BeerPulse

  7. Tony, I love your beer.

    That being said, by your own estimates, at the end of this year you could be hitting 260,00 barrels a year. That’s 41,333 bottles an hour in a forty-hour work week. If you’re working 24/7, that’s still 20,470 bottles of beer produced every hour of every day.

    That sounds a lot more like factory beer than craft beer. You are becoming your enemy!

    I realize that, by industry standards, 260,00 barrels is a pimple on the rear of the big boys. Still, it just doesn’t conjure up the image of “Craft”

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