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article imageWorld beer giant Heineken buys into California craft brewer

By Nathan Salant     Sep 20, 2015 in Business
Petaluma - It's been two weeks since European beer giant Heineken announced it was buying half of pioneering California craft beer-maker Lagunitas Brewing Co. and, so far, everything still looks good.
Not much has changed, at least not yet, at the small brewery that started producing hundreds of thousands of bottles of specialty ales like India Pale, A Little Sumpin Sumpin and The Hairy Eyeball at a brewery in a tiny Marin County town in 1993 before moving to Petaluma.
But that's what Lagunitas Brewing founder Tony Magee expected would happen when he approached Heineken and offered to sell half his company.
“We are what we are,” Magee told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper earlier this month, after the deal was announced.
"Achieving scale doesn't change things unless you allow it to change you," he said.
Magee says the deal will enable Lagunitas Brewing to bring its line of craft beers to a global market, while preserving the counterculture feel of the product and the business.
"This is about the global opportunity," Magee told the newspaper, adding that Lagunitas Brewing retains its management and its ways of doing things under the deal.
“Who wouldn’t want to do a pint competition in Cameroon or Vietnam," he said. "I want to present special beers in France, in Spain, in Mexico and Cape Town.”
Magee also said Heineken was the ideal major partner for his company, since it still was owned by its founding family.
For its part, Heineken pledged to be hands-off with its new acquisition.
“We recognize and respect the tremendous success of Tony [Magee] and his team in building one of the great U.S. craft beer brands,” Heineken CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer told the Chronicle.
“We look forward to that same team partnering with us to expand Lagunitas globally, so it can reach parts of the world that other craft beer brands have not,” Boxmeer said.
Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, the newspaper said.
But the deal should help Lagunitas Brewing regain a measure of respectability it famously lost in 2005 after a notorious raid of a weekly part by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that resulted in numerous arrests of patrons on marijuana charges.
The brewery's license was suspended for 20 days after the incident, which the company now refers to as the St. Patrick's Day Massacre and memorializes with a video still posted on its website, the newspaper said.
“We were loose about it, and we figured one day they were going to make us stop it — and they did,” said Ron Lindenbusch, the company’s chief marketing officer, who arrested at the party and led away in handcuffs.
In keeping with its counterculture attitude, Lagunitas Brewery also marks the raid with a special brew, Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, the newspaper said.
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