Wherefore art thou Lagunitas?
Mike Stuart | June 24, 2013
Are you familiar with the brewery Lagunitas out of Petaluma, CA? No? Yes? In our region the answer can go both ways. See, it is distributed all throughout Ohio with the exception of the greater Cincinnati area. Outside of the Midwest, it has a pretty expansive footprint hitting about thirty-five states. For those unfamiliar with the brand let me give you a brief history on the brewery.
How it Began
A man named Tony Magee was one of the original “I’m fed up with the system, so I’m starting a brewery” sorts. This revelation stretches back to 1992, the early days of the craft beer revolution. He transformed blood, sweat, tears, and yeast into a massive craft brewery on par with his brothers over at Sierra Nevada. This is a real homebrew to riches story that I don’t want to detail in great length. Especially because Tony does a far better job in his book, The Lagunitas Story; So You Want To Start A Brewery…? However, to cut to the chase, it’s important to understand that Tony has always done things his way and has been extremely successful with the approach. Some may find his style abrasive at times but I see him as a laser focused entrepreneur who is writing his own destiny. Too big to fail? No, too determined to fail. A quick side story to illustrate where his head is at and why he will control his future. With the boom in craft beer there has been a fairly well publicized shortage of hops available to brewers. Each year, brewers compete (and pay) to get access to not the current year’s crops but actually secure contracts on future harvests. This has become pretty much the norm for breweries of all sizes. Mr. Magee has recognized that grains, you know – the base ingredient for beer, will be the next issue. He has made arrangements with Canadian malt farmers to help expand their operations while making sustainable and fair pricing arrangements. This ensures he will have quality malts for years to come.
The Dilly Incident
I will recount a story that I heard during the local Beer Bloggers conference in January. Keep in mind, this is from one side of the saga and I’m willing to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I reached out for further comment from the the bar, the distributor, and the brewery and heard nothing but crickets. Dilly Cafe in Mariemont has long been a craft beer staple in the area often securing some pretty remarkable beers. The man behind the bar has been the legendary Peanut Kahles (who is actually moving over to the Party Source’s new operation shortly) and is the individual that shared the story when I asked a panel of industry professionals why we can get Lagunitas here. Of course, this was after some smiles, chuckles, snickers, and looks in his direction. The basic story, as I recall, was that Lagunitas planned to roll out across the state. They had beers shipped to the distributor (Premium Beverage Supply) and had orchestrated a statewide launch. Well, somehow a keg slipped out ahead of schedule and got put on tap at Dilly. Apparently, this got back to Tony Magee himself and he was none too pleased. It what seems to be a vindictive, reactionary move he decided to cut off Cincinnati permanently. End of story. No beer for you. You can drive up to Kettering or Dayton and find it. But once you see Kings Island or Touchdown/Footlong Jesus – no mas.
Will We Ever See It?
I’ve really enjoyed many of the Lagunitas beers that I’ve had when traveling. They may not be making top 10 lists on beer rating sites but they are all well done and priced at a great value. During a recent trip to San Diego, I brought home a bomber of their Lucky 13 imperial red, which was delicious. After sucking that down, I put out a fairly innocent tweet that actually got some big attention.
Who's ready to sign a petition to demand that @lagunitasT begin distributing in Cincinnati. Rest of the state gets it but we are snubbed!
— Brew Professor (@BrewProf) June 13, 2013
A few people retweeted it, favorited it, and provided some responses to share their agreement with my sentiment. I thought nothing about it and went to bed. To my surprise the next morning, I had a direct message from @laguintasT himself! His position is that of supply/demand and not being able to meet market needs currently. I mused that perhaps their new Chicago facility would be the answer to my prayers. Again, I heard back that our prospects are looking good!
So where does that leave us now? Still waiting and wondering. I keep my ears to the street as much as possible but I haven’t heard anything from others in the know. For now, plan a road trip up 75 or 71, otherwise just sit tight and enjoy the MANY great local beers we have at our disposal.