Heineken's set to invest a 50 percent stake in one of the best craft breweries in the U.S. The value? How about approximately a cool $1 billion?
While many of us beer lovers grumble at any mention of a craft brewery joining forces with anything associated with the words “being bought,” “selling stake,” etc., I am not really mad at this news: Heineken is set to invest a 50 percent stake in Lagunitas.
Now I am a huge fan of the Petaluma, California-based Lagunitas Brewing, a microbrewery that has become a giant in its own right thanks to their delicious, often aggressively hopped concoctions, risqué marketing campaigns and fearless founder Tony Magee's candor. Assuming nothing changes with what made them one of the most exciting brewing companies in the nation, I see Lagunitas’ teaming with Heineken a great benefit when it comes to pacifying my hop fix across outside of the U.S.’ borders. According to the official press release posted on Lagunitas’ website here, I let out a big sigh when I read, “Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas, will remain at the helm, with the same leadership and staff, same brewers, same recipes and same suppliers and distributors helping to drive the brand forward.” In other words, it sounds like their liquid gold won’t be watered down, skunked out and abused due to the global stretch. How they plan on keeping the hops gangster still remains a mystery but I am all ears.
And how much money are we talking with this deal? I have read from various sources that this puppy is valued at approximately a whopping $1 billion. Dizzzaaaamn!
So what are the advantages for Heineken and Lagunitas making the merger? The media release says, “Heineken provides Lagunitas with a global opportunity to present its beers to new consumers and Lagunitas provides Heineken with the opportunity to build a strong foothold in the dynamic Craft Brewing category on a global scale, with the category growing in popularity almost everywhere now.”
Magee explains, “This venture will create a way for Lagunitas to help Heineken's global distribution network participate in the growing craft beer category in places from Tierra Del Fuego and Mongolia to the far-flung Isle of Langerhans." He continues, “Lagunitas will share in the best quality processes in the world and enjoy an open door to opportunities that took lifetimes to build. This alliance with the world's most international brewer represents a profound victory for American craft. It will open doors that had previously been shut and bring the U.S. craft beer vibe to communities all over the world." He also provides a genuine, heartfelt breakdown with no apologetic feel (as Magee always does) in a blog post he put up this morning here. One significant quote from his Tumblr statement says:
‘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.’
- Tony Magee, Founder of Lagunitas
On the Heineken side, CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer chimes in, "We are very excited to partner with Lagunitas. We recognize and respect the tremendous success of Tony and his team in building one of the great American Craft Beer brands. We look forward to that same team partnering with us to expand Lagunitas globally, so it can reach parts that other craft beer brands have not."
After my creative agency AllWays Open worked with Heineken (especially John Romano) on the awesome “Dedication Two” mural by incredible artist Hebru Brantley in Atlanta (see the documentary here), coupled with my recent trip to their original headquarters in Amsterdam blogged here, I learned a lot more about the brew with the red star and garnered more respect for their brand.
While hate will surface from those who want American microbreweries to be solely, well, American, only time will tell how this merger will really work for all of us. In the meantime, I will be more than happy ordering a Lagunitas in countries I usually couldn’t. And hell, I see cans coming for easier shipping and better hop preservation in the future, too.
Stay tuned for more beer news soon. The response is going to be an interesting one so grab your popcorn!