Sometimes it may be difficult to guess which one Lagunitas Brewing founder Tony Magee likes better: beer or music.
Lagunitas kicked off its free summer concert series May 28 at its brewery in Petaluma, California, and Magee is joining Paul Thorn at some of the talented songwriter’s concert venues for a dual performance called Tales & Ales.
“Music, like beer and community, is fundamental to the human experience,” says Magee, who founded the craft brewery in 1993 and sold it to Heineken in recent years. “It has been fundamental to my own human experience. As a failed-yet-hopeful musician, I’ve always wanted to be near musicians, music and the fine arts. What could be better?”
Magee has remained in charge of Lagunitas despite Heineken’s purchase of half the brewery for an estimated $500 million in 2015 and last year’s acquisition of all remaining Lagunitas stock.
When acquiring the remaining shares, Heineken announced that Lagunitas would “continue to operate as an independent entity within Heineken to maintain the Lagunitas culture and free spirit.”
Magee says the acquisition hasn’t changed the Lagunitas production process or its methods of doing business. Sales are growing, and Lagunitas beer can be found in more than 20 countries, he says.
Heineken’s portfolio includes more than 300 beers and ciders. The brewing giant employs more than 80,000 workers and operates breweries, malteries, cider plants and other production facilities in more than 70 countries.
Some craft beer geeks wonder whether the acquisition by Heineken will affect the quality of Lagunitas beers.
“The truth is that the same brewers are still making the same brews in the same brewery in the same manner with the same equipment using the same hops and barley from the same farmers in Yakima (Washington) and Alberta (Canada),” Magee responds. “There aren’t any Heineken people brewing in Petaluma, Chicago or Seattle. It’s just us doing what we do. Heineken recognizes that what we do is different than what they do, and they want us to continue doing that voodoo we do so well.”
Though Heineken holds all the Lagunitas stock, “stock certificates do not make beer or work with musicians or deliver beer donations to nonprofit charities,” Magee says. “Our relationship with Heineken is not a command-and-control relationship. We steer our own ship within the waters of a great and global player in the world of beer.”
The ship that Magee steers has always ventured into musical waters.
Magee and Thorn have teamed for various Tales & Ales get-togethers which, according to Lagunitas, are a way for the two men to show their passion for home brewing and songwriting. The duo discuss the two pursuits and how they compare, tell stories and play music. Ticket holders for a concert or a multi-act event involving Thorn are welcome to attend at no additional cost.
Upcoming Tales & Ales dates are Aug. 24 in Kansas City, Missouri, at Knuckleheads; Sept. 12 at the Americana Music Association Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and Feb. 10-17, 2019, on a Cayamo cruise from Tampa, Florida, to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Costa Maya, Mexico. Tales & Ales events were held earlier this year in Spicewood, Texas, and two Florida locales, Key West and Santa Rosa Beach.
“I’ve been a true fan of the work of Paul and his band for more than 15 years,” Magee says. “I have my own three-piece rock band that was touring as a warmup act for headliner bands like James McMurtry and, recently, the White Buffalo. I simply called Paul and his writing partner Billy Maddox and asked if we could help support some of their shows in the same way. They said ‘yes,’ and it all blossomed from there. The Tales & Ales concept was Billy’s. It seemed like fun and has been exactly that!”
The Lagunitas summer’s concert series in Petaluma, called Live at Lagunitas, kicked off May 28 with retro-soul group St. Paul & the Broken Bones. Other scheduled acts include Deer Tick, James McMurtry, the Soul Rebels and Son Little.
Magee “always viewed brewing beer as a lot like composing music,” Heineken says on its website. “And being a musician himself, it’s no surprise music has been woven into almost everything at Lagunitas. On site, all our taprooms (in Chicago, Seattle, Petaluma and Azusa, California) have live, local music every day we’re open; plus, we have larger performance spaces for national touring acts. Beyond our breweries, we like to help bands reach more ears through beers by fueling bands on the road and sponsoring music festivals. After all, what’s a better soundtrack to music than a fine ale?”
So, what are the finest, or the best, beers Lagunitas brews? Magee says the best ones are the three he’s most proud of.
Lagunitas IPA is the best-selling of more than 15,000 IPAs in the USA and “the first of its kind when we brewed it in 1995,” he says. Also on his “best” list are Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout and A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.
The stout is “delicious” and “among the first of its kind,” and A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is “a beer beyond style,” Magee says.
People “categorize it as an IPA simply, because it’s hoppy,” the Lagunitas founder says. “However, it really is sumpin’ all its own, and it’s hard to find new terroir in the four-ingredient world of beer.”
The explosion of so many craft breweries in recent years gives consumers so many great choices, so why should they choose a Lagunitas product?
“This is the best time in the last thousand years to be a beer lover,” Magee says. “There are many incredible craft brew choices available, and Lagunitas is one of them. Drink what thrills you!”