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So You Want to Start a Brewery

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The recently released memoir by Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing, is a story of mistakes, misfortunes, good friends, integrity and plain old dumb luck. 


Tony takes the reader on the history of Lagunitas from his humble beginnings as a homebrewer to the production brewery that it is today.  As a reference scale, Lagunitas makes enough beer every single day to allow you to start drinking a 6 pack a day, every day, from the time you turn 21 to beyond the year that you turn 70; that is an incredible amount of beer.  This is a far cry from some of the other currently available craft breweries that we all know and love but in reality, even that much is a literal drop in the bucket when compared to the massive quantity of beer that the major breweries like Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser produce.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book when I initially picked it up.  I guess that I was hoping that tucked neatly in the pages of this book would be a tip, or a pathway to create a brewery with the success story of Lagunitas.  Even more hopeful, or perhaps just dreaming, I was looking for the secret to their wildly successful Lagunitas IPA or (a true dream) a homebrew recipe for their Brown Shugga’.  Unfortunately for me I was wrong on all accounts.  This is the story and history of Lagunitas.

The story weaves its way around the early days of Lagunitas that seem to be full of mistake after mistake.  For background, Tony Magee is not trained businessman or a trained brewer.  He is; however, the American dream.  Tony Magee is an entrepreneur head and shoulders above others.  More than that even, Tony is a genuinely good person who has unrivaled drive and compassion for all of his employees.  This is the type of company owner who I would want to work for if I were in the craft beer industry. 

This is actually the second version of this book, the first was written a couple of years ago.  Since that first version so many new things have happened (including a pesky little incident with California’s Alcohol Beverage Control and the state attorney involving some semi-illicit drugs) that this update was needed. 

I’m not going to spoil this book with describing each section.  This book will appeal to a lot of different people.  Craft beer folks of course will love this book because of the topic and the inner look at the operations of a brewery like Lagunitas but I believe that anyone who is an entrepreneur will appreciate the story.  I want to end this write up with a quote from the book.  This quote is actually from the Head Brewer, Jeremy Marshall but it really spoke volumes to me and I feel is the most apropos quote from the book. 

“Beer need not be pretentious; it is still the working man’s drink, and craft beer is the thinking working man’s drink” 

You can find this book at most major retailers or if you are lucky enough you can pick up a copy at the company store located in Petaluma, California


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