2015 is officially the year the craft beer industry trimmed its hair, got a fresh shave and tucked in its shirt. The latest big money move in the indie industry’s year of growth: Heineken announced the acquisition of a 50% shareholding in the Lagunitas Brewing Co., the fifth largest craft brewer in the United States by volume. For Heineken, the transaction provides the brewing giant the opportunity to build a strong foothold in the craft brewing category on a global scale, and for Lagunitas, world domination is possible — or at least some crazy expansion opportunities.
Lagunitas might seem like a surprising acquisition target, considering the brewery’s more vocal craft beer spirit and maverick ways, but founder and CEO Tony Magee believes those qualities are what led to this ambitious move and Heineken specifically as its partner. The brewery believes this deal only signals “the end of the beginning,” with so much now possible with Heineken on board.
“Lagunitas will share in the best quality processes in the world and enjoy access to opportunities that took lifetimes to build,” Magee stated. “This alliance with the world’s most international brewer represents a profound victory for U.S. craft. It will open doors that had previously been shut and bring the U.S. craft beer vibe to communities all over the world.”
Founded in California in 1993, Lagunitas is estimated to sell nearly 900,000 bbls of beer in 2015 from its two breweries in Petaluma, California, and Chicago. A third brewery is currently under construction in Azusa, Calif. The brewer has a strong track record of growth, with 2012 – 2014 revenue CAGR at 58%. Its other leading brands include A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Daytime, Pils, Sucks, Hop Stoopid and Maximus. Lagunitas has a nationwide presence in the United States and the brewer has expanded into a number of other markets including the UK, Canada, Sweden and Japan, offering strong potential for continued growth outside the United States.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to complete in the 4th quarter of 2015. Financial terms are not disclosed, but there some crazy big numbers being thrown around the internet if you care to look.
At the CBC this year, the industry was abuzz about the 11 percent market share (following the definition change), but Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza stood on stage and admitted that no one really knew what effect private investor money would have on the industry (see: Craft beer identity crisis. Side note, this probably puts a damper on that 20 percent by 2020 target the BA had in mind).
Since then, we have started to get the answer, and the flood is on (just check out this comprehensive guide to all the wild deals in the past 12 months). As a result of the flood, notable craft brewers all over the country are deciding whether to grab a life vest or hop in the nearest yacht, while the vast majority are just doing the back stroke and seeing where the currents take ’em. Either way, there are worse problems to have. Will be interesting to see what the conversation is at the next CBC.