Lagunitas is one of the hottest breweries in the US and it has extended that hot streak by purchasing stakes in 3 different breweries across the US. Those three breweries include
Southend Brewery and Smokehouse in the historic section of Charleston, S.C., which will be rebranded as a Lagunitas brewpub; Austin, Texas’ Independence Brewing Co.; and Moonlight Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa, Calif.. The latter of these is a 24-year-old Bay Area icon that distributes only draft beer in a small regional footprint.
Lagunitas is also planning on opening spaces/taphouses in Portland Oregon and San Diego. The brewery will provide the staffing, space and beer for FREE and act as a fundraising space for nonprofits.
Karen Hamilton, director of communications for the company based in Petaluma, California, said the space will be “completely donated to any bona fide nonprofit organization so that they can focus on raising the funds they need to carry out their respective missions.”
“We believe that beer is the original social media and we know that the best way to connect with beer lovers is face to face, over a beer,” Hamilton said.
The company, which is calling the space A Purely Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room, said it plans to reach out to nonprofits and offer them use of the community room. It will provide support staff to “ensure turnkey execution of the event and most importantly that all of their guests have a great time.”
Hamilton said the company is motivated to help communities that have “helped us learn and grown as brewers.” The company on Tuesday also announced it is opening a similar room in San Diego, and it said it bought stakes in three breweries: in Santa Rosa, California; Charleston, South Carolina; and Austin, Texas — and will begin collaborative brewery/community ventures at those.
Lagunitas can thank Heineken for this ability to spread it’s wings. The massive brewing company recently bought a 50% equity stake in the company – a deal estimated to be worth $500 million. That deal allowed Lagunitas to shoot for expansion, distribution and larger market share.
Lagunitas is another in an increasingly long line of large regional breweries buying up smaller breweries. They are stepping in front of the AB InBev’s and providing capital for those smaller breweries to meet their goals and funding needs.
Tony Maggee, the owner of Lagunitas held an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Here’s a few snippets from that. For the full interview, go here.
Q: What’s the overarching reason behind these moves?
A: Craft is becoming increasingly local in focus. There will always be room for a number of brands to be national — with Lagunitas, that’s what we’re aiming for, as well as what we’re pursuing with being international — but as a way to become more local, some breweries are building remote brewpubs, like 10 Barrel (in San Diego and Denver, owned byAnheuser-Busch InBev) and Goose Island (in Toronto, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) and others. After a while, that turns into Applebee’s or something. I’m not sure if it really promotes your brand, plus it competes with your local retailers who are otherwise happy to sell your beer. What we want to do instead is partner with these different breweries around the country.
Q: And what’s the idea behind this nonprofit model in two very craft beer-oriented cities?
A: If I don’t want to go into cities and open up a taproom — it’s a big expense, and there’s the risk of not being in the right neighborhood, and the question of whether retailers will rebel because you’re invading their territory — I thought: what do our taprooms in Chicago and Petaluma do best? It’s handing the taprooms over two nights a week to nonprofit groups. We’re just expanding that concept into total facilities. We won’t even have liquor licenses at them. We’re just renting the space to make it available. We’ll provide the staff and the beer and the room for free. If things go right, they’ll be open 250 to 300 days per year.
Q: What’s the common theme here? It seems Lagunitas is in a transformation from being just a brewery to something bigger in the industry.
A: There’s a challenge for bigger, older brewers to stay relevant. You see a lot of breweries trying different things — building new breweries across the country, running festivals and brewing different styles. But affinity is an important thing, and being close to the people you want to have relationships with matters. I learned that when I opened the Chicago brewery (in 2014). This is an attempt to see how far down the tree of scale can we work, and find the ability to make relationships. Craft brewing has never been about anything but making relationships.
Q: Any interest in buying breweries outright? Or are you mostly interested in what you call partnerships?
A: Partnerships. Because there’s so much learning that has to be done. We never stop learning about how people are feeling about beer and how retailers are reacting and distributors are behaving. You never stop learning. In my mind, the more smart people we have working on it the better. The people in these breweries, I want them there, and I want to learn from them. And honest to God, that’s not spin. The reason Lagunitas has done well is the smart people I’ve been able to attract to the business. Now, I want to take that strength and leverage it to make relationships outside the brewery.
Q: Will you talk to other breweries about more partial acquisitions?
A: Oh yeah. I want to do a lot more than three. I want to make a bunch of these relationships. This is a beginning, not an end point of anything.