Heineken buys stake in Californian brewer to take “US craft beer vibe” global

The UK is the home of more than 1,400 breweries, with around three opening on a weekly basis.

Indeed, the increasing popularity of the craft beer, a trend started in the US which saw the rise of independent brewers challenging large firms, is supporting the growth in Britain.

The definition of the craft beer itself is open to interpretation, but Brewdog is one firm flying the flag for the UK as the Scottish firm disrupted the drinks industry with a crowdfunding campaign that raised £5m – from an overall £25m target over a year – in just three weeks.

Dutch firm Heineken wants a taste of the burgeoning market and has acquired a 50 per cent stake in California-based craft brewer Lagunitas, which was launched 1993, in a bid to “export the exciting vibe of American craft beer globally”.

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Although Lagunitas will continue to operate independently on home soil, the two businesses will forge a joint venture to distribute Lagunitas products worldwide, providing the American company with scale while Heineken will secure a new customer base.

“This venture will create a way for Lagunitas to help Heineken’s global distribution network participate in the growing craft beer category in places from Tierra Del Fuego and Mongolia to the far-flung Isle of Langerhans,” said Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas.

“Lagunitas will share in the best quality processes in the world and enjoy an open door to opportunities that took lifetimes to build. This alliance with the world’s most international brewer represents a profound victory for American craft. It will open doors that had previously been shut and bring the US craft beer vibe to communities all over the world.”

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Recipes, staff, brewers and other existing production procedures at Lagunitas will remain the same. The company has breweries in California and Chicago, while a third is set to open in California in 2017 to build on the current 1.2m barrel capacity. It’s a stark contrast from its new shareholder which has 180 breweries.

Jean-François van Boxmeer, CEO of Heineken, added: “We are very excited to partner with Lagunitas. We recognise and respect the tremendous success of Tony and his team in building one of the great American Craft Beer brands.

“We look forward to that same team partnering with us to expand Lagunitas globally, so it can reach parts that other craft beer brands have not.”

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