Lagunitas Brewing to Open New Chicago Brewery
Last night Lagunitas Brewing owner Tony Magee made a surprisingly informal announcement via his personal Twitter account that the brewery would be opening a new production facility in Chicago, Illinois. This comes on the heels of the recent announcements that Sierra Nevada and New Belgium will be building east coast production breweries. Will Lagunitas be the next big 10 craft brewer? It would seem so.
Again via Twitter, Mr. Magee said that back in February he was thinking about all the truckloads of beer leaving California and heading eastward and how much all the freight expenses added to the cost of the beer. So he did a little calculating and found that for the money Lagunitas spends on freight he could finance another whole brewery. It is these same calculations that many a smaller brewer has made before him, and the same reason why we are seeing some of the craft brewing industry's brightest west coast stars opening east coast breweries.
Lagunitas has found a large movie soundstage building where it will install a new 250bbl brewhouse manufactured by ROLEC, which built the recent upgrade to the company's Petaluma, CA brewery. Chicago is the city in which Lagunitas owner Tony Magee was born and raised, and he has defended it in craft beer circles, so this may be a bit of a homecoming for him.
This is exciting news not just for the consumer, who will likely see Lagunitas beer more widely available, but to the craft beer industry as a whole, which is already seeing record growth. The big market share of the huge macrobreweries is falling, so those companies are trying to slow the decrease of their profits by getting into the craft beer game. A-B Inbev and MillerCoors have been taking a page from craft brewers' playbooks about product diversification at the same time the larger craft brewers are following the big guys' strategy of multiple production facilities to reduce shipping costs. So far the west coast brewers have been the first to jump onto the nationwide expansion bandwagon, but I wonder how long it will be before we see a bigger east coast brewery like Dogfish Head open a west coast facility. It is all gravy for the craft industry now, but how long will it be until we start calling Lagunitas and other ambitious breweries sellouts? Hopefully not anytime soon.