Lagunitas has been making waves in the craft beer space for decades. Founder Tony Magee started small and furiously independent, grew into one of the largest craft breweries, and recently became the latest independent label to sell to a major beer company. So how much of a Lagunitas expert are you? Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the brewery.
Lagunitas isn’t based in the town it’s named after.
When Lagunitas Brewing Company started in 1993, it was based in Lagunitas, California. Just one year later, Magee moved to Petaluma, California and never looked back.
No one owns the dog on the label.
The famous dog image on the Lagunitas logo isn’t Magee’s or any one else’s dog. It was inspired by the dog in The Little Rascals, Petey.
The brewery was temporarily shut down because of weed.
In 2005, California alcohol regulators put a 20-day suspension on the brewery while employees were investigated for dealing marijuana. No one was charged for selling to undercover officers, which Magee said was because “everyone was willing to give it to them for free.” The suspension did inspire a new beer though: Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.
Lagunitas is still very into marijuana, though.
Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale isn’t the company’s only cannabis-inspired beer. Lagunitas also offers Kronik, which has a censored bar over the label, and Waldo’s Special Ale, a beer made with the crew who turned “4/20” into marijuana terminology. Most recently, the brewery released a beer called SuperCritical, made with cannabis terpenes.
Lagunitas and Sierra Nevada have bad blood.
In January 2015, Lagunitas filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Sierra Nevada for the label on Sierra Nevada’s Hop Hunter IPA. Magee said that it looked too similar to the Lagunitas IPA font. The lawsuit riled up enough people that Lagunitas dropped the case. “Today was in the hands of the ultimate court; The Court of Public Opinion and in it I got an answer to my Question; Our IPA’s ™ has limits,” Magee tweeted at the time.
Magee started as a homebrewer.
In the Christmas of 1992, Magee got a homebrew kit that changed his life forever. A year later he was selling kegged beer to his neighborhood bars.
Magee has a penchant for big announcements via Tumblr.
After making a name for himself as one of the biggest craft and independent supporters in the game, Magee sold 50 percent of Lagunitas to Heineken in 2015, and then the remaining 50 percent shortly after. Both were announced by rambling Tumblr posts.
“Some who don’t fully understand it all may say it is selling out,” Magee wrote. “Truth is that we did then, and are now ‘buying in.’ Money has value and equity has value too. I am using Lagunitas’ equity to buy deeper into an organization that will help us go farther more quickly than we could have on our own. You hafta imagine Jonah standing on the gunnel of the storm-tossed ship and intentionally leaping into the mouth of the whale to embrace the transformation and emerge to become his own destiny.”
Two of Lagunitas’s top-selling beers were happy accidents.
The brewers at Lagunitas messed up a batch of Olde GnarlyWine in 1997, so they bought as much brown sugar as possible and dumped it in. The result was a 9.9 percent alcohol beer they called Brown Shugga’ that quickly became a favorite.
But when Brown Shugga’ couldn’t be brewed in 2011 because of construction issues on a new brewery, Lagunitas put out a substitute called Lagunitas Sucks. Now the latter is just as famous as the former.
Lagunitas hasn’t been considered a craft brewery since 2015.
After the company sold 50 percent to Heineken, it was no longer considered a craft brewery by the Brewers Association.
It’s not really a California beer.
Lagunitas has a couple breweries, one of which is in Chicago, but it’s known as a California beer. Magee is from Chicago, however, and he told The Hop Review that in a way, all of the beers “are from Chicago.”