On Tuesday, Lagunitas Brewing, a Heineken-owned craft brewery based in Petaluma, Calif., announced it will be cutting 12 percent of its workforce. CEO Maria Stipp cited a changing craft beer market as a reason for the downsizing.
Lagunitas will also begin brewing Heineken-owned Newcastle Brown Ale at its Petaluma and Chicago facilities, indicated by a new label approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
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In addition, two of Heineken’s Mexican imports, Tecate and Dos Equis, will debut new labels this and next year. Tecate is dropping a bigger, boozier (7.5 percent ABV, 24-ounce) version of Tecate Titanium; and Dos Equis is debuting a new Mexican Pale Ale, along with a new can design for its Lager Especial that reads, “Mexico Is the Shit.”
The latter is a partnership with Mexico is the Shit (MITS), a streetwear and lifestyle brand; the co-branded cans will be featured at events and pop-ups highlighting emerging Mexican artists.
On the one hand, Heineken’s moves prove that when an American craft brewery sells to an international corporation, things absolutely do not stay the same. Lagunitas’ workforce cuts and contract brewing, in the eyes of independent craft brewers and consumers, are not cool.
On the other hand, I see a savvy international player taking risks in one of the world’s most important beer markets. The U.S. is the No. 2 beer consuming country by volume, second only to China. By bringing Newcastle production stateside and importing new Mexican lagers — an import category that is dominating — American fans of these brands may have a chance to drink cheaper, fresher Newcastle, stronger Tecate, and Dos Equis, which supports Mexican artists.
Heineken is making moves, and I sort of respect it. I don’t see this solely as a huge brewery stomping out American brands; I see a truly global player bringing affordable, interesting imports stateside. If it means more competition among the big guys, great.