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Lagunitas
Photograph: Martha Williams

Lagunitas Brewing Company is being sold to Heineken

By
Zach Long
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When Lagunitas Brewing Company opened its gigantic Douglas Park brewery in 2014, it immediately became the largest craft brewery in Chicago. It lost that designation in 2015, when Lagunitas sold a 50% stake in its company to Dutch beer company Heineken—American trade group the Brewers Association does not consider breweries to qualify as "craft" if more than 25% of the company is owned by a multinational brewing conglomerate.

Today, Lagunitas announced that it's going all-in with Heineken, to which it's selling its remaining 50% stake in the brewery. According to a release, "Lagunitas will continue to operate as an independent entity within Heineken." Though details are somewhat scarce, that means it's likely business as usual for Lagunitas's Chicago brewery, which will continue to churn out hoppy beers and operate its tap room (complete with its signature psychedelic entrance, soundtracked by "Pure Imagination").

In a blog post about the acquisition, Lagunitas founder and executive chairman Tony Magee defended the decision to completely sell the brewery to Heineken, stating, "Some who don’t fully understand it all may say it is selling out. Truth is that we did then, and are now ‘buying in’… Money has value and equity has value too. I am using Lagunitas’ equity to buy deeper into an organization that will help us go farther more quickly than we could have on our own."

No matter how Magee spins it, Lagunitas's sale to Heineken doesn't exactly mesh with his criticism of Chicago brewer Goose Island, which was purchased by multinational brewing company AB InBev in 2011. Speaking about AB InBev to Bloomberg in 2015, Magee said, “What they really want to do is disrupt this whole craft thing so they can go back to the business that they’d like to be in, which is making lighter beer with inexpensive ingredients.” Magee has seemingly changed his tune now that Heineken is willing to foot the bill for the continued global expansion of his own brewery.

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