Already known for his prolific use of Twitter, Lagunitas founder Tony Magee has unshackled himself from the 140-character limits of the Twitterverse and setup shop on Tumblr, a free “microblogging” platform.
“I’ve loved brevity, but I also realized that the types of things that I wanted to tell now in the original Twits of a simpler time for the brewery and my life inside it had become so complicated that 140 characters was no longer adequate and that in fact, the lack of detail was crushing the general truth of the otherwise luminous central idea. Thus this Blog,” he wrote.
In his second post to the site, Magee said he was encouraged to begin the longer-form blogging experiment after responding to a Beer Advocate thread where some commenters had questioned his company’s decision to build a third brewery in Azusa, Calif.
“Some folks there said things like ‘this one is a head scratcher’ and since for us it was anything but that I wanted to tell the story of the thinking,” he wrote. “Even more, I wanted to tell the story of the future thing that we are pointed toward, a thing still over the horizon, a thing of which only the emanations of its penumbra are apparent to us, but they were very apparent and so compelling that not acting in the light of this thinking seemed kin to ignoring the beauty of a newborn baby in all of its possibility and nascent perfection.”
Pretty heady stuff, even by Magee’s standards. Nevertheless, in his (republished) BA post, Magee shared more on the company’s choice to build in Southern California.
Not surprisingly, Lagunitas has “run out of expansion room” at its headquarters in Petaluma, Calif., he wrote, and shipping beer west from its brewery in Chicago would be “inefficient” and “irresponsible.”
“I have a big plan that I’m working hard on and it would give anyone goosebumps,” he wrote. “Maybe that’s the part that will bum some out here. Small is indeed beautiful, but even the most lovely infant wants to grow up and learn to drive so that it can engage with the world.”
For Magee, that means taking a more global view of the evolving beer landscape. By his count, craft will one day climb to 60 percent of all U.S. beer sales — or 120 million barrels. Put into a global context, worldwide demand for “craft beer” could one day approach 1 billion barrels, Magee said.
And one area where Lagunitas, and others, might look to sell some of those barrels is just across the border in Mexico.
“Has anyone on this board ever thought about how it is that no U.S. craft brewer sells drop one in Mexico?” he wrote on the BA thread. “I’ve thought about that. A lot. I believe that we will sell Lagunitas in Mexico. I’ll need a brewery to brew that beer, and Petaluma has about 18 to 24 months before current situation exhausts its bandwidth.”
In a follow-up post published on July 10, Magee expounded on craft’s international opportunities.
“There is the whole world to think about,” he began, describing companies like Brooklyn and Stone and their own gloabl brewing initiatives in places like Sweden, Australia and Germany.
“All of U.S. Craft in these distant lands is regarded in the same way we Americans all regarded the Great Imported Brands of the 1970’s and 1980’s,” he added. “We represent something authentic, something artistic, something from afar, something richer in meaning than the local brew, no matter how beloved or traditional.”
But there’s one major hurdle Magee and others need to clear if craft is to be successful in Mexico: a “duopoly that controls and delivers all beer distribution for 125 million people.”
After crediting the U.S. three-tier system for at least some of craft’s success domestically, Magee pondered what would happen, in Mexico, if craft brewers were given an opportunity to flourish.
“Peeps there would drink it. Get to know it. Probably even get to like it. Buy more of it, and the seed would be sown,” he wrote.
In his most recent post, Magee turned his attention back to the U.S. market, segmenting the “craft” industry into five “fundamentally distinct” groups:
- First Tier: 750,000 barrels and up
- Second Tier: A “fast developing” group between 100,00 barrels and 750,000 barrels
- Third Tier: Packaging breweries below 100,000 barrels
- Fourth Tier: “Truly small guys”
- Fifth Tier: Brewpubs
When observed in the context of the entire beer segment, craft is “maturing as an industry while the constituent brewers that comprise it also mature,” Magee wrote while simultaneously questioning the true meaning “craft.”
“The largest Crafter in the U.S. with a market capitalization somewhere over $3 billion even now wants to be seen in the same light as the smallest who opened just last week and works to scrape together enough dinero to make payroll and still pay for malt and hops, rent and taxes,” he wrote.
And the Brewers Association — the group responsible for helping to establish the boundaries of what is and is not considered a craft brewery — has modified its own definition so many times that the phrase is “meaningless,” Magee said.
“The ‘Craft vs. Crafty’ thing from last summer was another nail in the term’s coffin,” he wrote. “Exclusion and inclusion by fiat has a frat party sort of aroma to it and it gave the folks they’d like to exclude a stage to stand on to offer their own definition, and so it spins.”
“Small brewing,” in Magee’s eyes, is simply a point on a curve. It is a “revolution,” and the “future will not be like the past.”