Press Clips: Elbows Sharpen Online as Craft Competition Heats Up

An assertive push for tap handles by the country’s largest craft brewery, Boston Beer Co., became a global crisis in the twittersphere as Lagunitas founder, Tony Magee posted a series of inflammatory messages to the social networking site on Dec. 17.

Perhaps alarmed that amidst increasing competition for tap handles his larger competitor might be throwing its weight around, Magee alleged that Boston Beer is “specifically targeting” the Lagunitas IPA business with the recently introduced Samuel Adams Rebel IPA.


In a second tweet, Magee took a shot at Boston Beer.

Two weeks later, Magee took to the forum section of popular beer review site,, to elaborate:

“The idea that BB helps little guys is pretty over-stated marketing material,” he wrote. “They are not evil, they are not un-cool because of size (if they are un-cool at all), but they want to remain at the very top of the Craft pyramid (who can blame them) and they now feel they need to get a leash on the IPA channel.”

Jim Koch presents at the Brewbound Session in May, 2013

That drew a response on the forum from Boston Beer founder, Jim Koch.

“More than anything, at Boston Beer, we compete against ourselves and our own ideal — to brew the best beer we can,” Koch wrote. “We don’t target other craft brewers.”

The exchange highlighted Magee’s concern that there are too few ways for craft companies to get to market, and that having craft companies behave like their larger competitors could endanger the entire category.

“80 percent of the beer in this country being sold by two companies is a bubble, not the other way around,” he told “A market of 250 million requires more than just two suppliers for just about any product.”

If that’s the case, Magee will be pleased to learn that another group of craft breweries plans to open in Denver this year. The Denver Westword blog compiled a list of 20 startup breweries that have either signed a lease or a contract on a property. The article also adds that at least a dozen more don’t have locations picked out.

Boston is also seeing a brewery boom. Boston resident Adam Romanow tells the Boston Business Journal that he’s currently searching for 12,000 sq. ft. of space and upwards of 1.25 million in private investment to open Castle Island Brewing. Romanow actually began the startup process in 2011 and, at the time, there were just 30 members of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild. Now there are nearly 50.

The growth of startups in Massachusetts reflects a nationwide trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. Last June, the Brewers Association’s Paul Gatza reported that 767 new breweries had opened in just a two-year time span. Those openings aren’t restricted to craft-savvy markets like Denver or Boston, either. There are now 20 craft breweries operating in Alabama, for example. The state’s brewers guild said that approximately 40,000 barrels were brewed there last year, up from just 1,000 barrels in 2009

Michael Sellers, the founder and co-owner of Birmingham, Ala.-based Good People Brewing Co. attributed the growth in part to state legislation that allowed craft breweries to sell beer in on-premise tap rooms.

“The thing that I think has spawned all of the growth in the industry is the tap rooms,” Sellers told the Associated Press. “That really gives you a ready revenue source rather than having to wait 30 days for a wholesaler to pay.”

It’s not just craft brewers who are experiencing growth, either. Raleigh, North Carolina-based Mims Distributing told the Raleigh News Observer that, in the last decade, its craft and import beer sales have grown 25 percent and now comprise about 40 percent of the company’s business.

Meanwhile, Magee plans to continue growing Lagunitas’ distribution footprint. The company has reportedly inked a wholesale agreement in Cincinnati.