California-based brewery Lagunitas — one of the nation’s largest in the craft beer space — announced today that it’s selling its full operations to Heineken International, the global beer conglomerate that owns more than 160 breweries worldwide. Since September 2015, Heineken had owned a 50 percent stake in Lagunitas, which is best known for its India Pale Ale and its pin-up adorned Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale. Today, founder Tony Magee deftly called the sale a “decision to connect Lagunitas completely with Heineken.”
“They are a very big company and we are a small company but at the core we both want the same things,” Magee wrote in a public Tumblr post. “By going deeper into the heart of Heineken we will be able to build a bridge from the vision for craft beer that Amsterdam shares with us and the [Operation Companies] who know their beer lovers.” Magee will stay on as Lagunitas’ executive chairman.
The sale of the 24-year-old Lagunitas comes at a moment of major consolidations within the beer industry, with many beloved brands selling to the big boys like Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest.
Just yesterday, Asheville, North Carolina’s beloved five-year-old Wicked Weed Brewing announced its own sale to A-B InBev. “Nothing’s going to change,” co-founder Walt Dickinson told USA Today, citing a desire to be available in more markets as the reason for the sale. In the past three years alone, A-B InBev has been quietly building its craft portfolio, acquiring respected local brands like Seattle’s Elysian Brewing, Bend, Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing, Virginia’s Devils Backbone Brewing, and Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery (among others).
Not surprisingly, those sales have resulted in much beer-world chatter. Wicked Weeds’ acquisition led an Austin-based brewery to pull out of a planned collaboration in protest, noting that they would “never do a collaboration with Anheuser-Busch or any company they own.” In a blog post earlier this week, OG beer blogger Jeff Alworth criticized the messaging surrounding 10 Barrel’s upcoming 10-year anniversary party, noting how A-B InBev masks its ownership of the brand.
The Lagunitas sale is certainly a big one for craft beer fans. The company has long had a perceived independence at heart, even after selling half the company to Heineken in 2015. It also operates massive facilities in several different parts of the country, including an under-construction brewhouse in Azusa, California, just east of Los Angeles, that only last week opened their tap room for the first time.
But with Lagunitas’ latest plan to “connect completely” with mega-label Heineken, it’s likely some fans will begin their own “conscious uncoupling” from the brewery.
• Fermenting Ideas of Order [Tumblr]