Book Review – So You Want to Start a Brewery?


Hope you like books!  ‘Cause there will be few more coming down the pike due to the Christmas, what to get Sean rush.  I will hold back and not review any non-related beer books though.  No, The Martian or Midnight in Siberia or Beautiful Chaos for you lot.

Next up is the story of how Lagunitas Brewing came to be in So You Want to Start a Brewery? by Tony Magee.  This story meanders a bit.  But once you are a few pages in, you realize that is by design.  The Lagunitas Story is a winding digression of a brewery story.  And akin to the Sierra Nevada history, the fact that they are alive and brewing is a near miracle.

I was seriously amazed by the shoestring budget and the financial hurdles that Magee endured to bring the brewery to Petaluma and Chicago.  You learn the backstory on how Brown Shugga’ came to be in a late night mistake fix.  The Undercover Weed investigation proceedings.  And more importantly you learn a bit about the culture that is imbued into the brand.  From the design of the labels to the taste of the beers.

This book is a bit on the tell-all side which I expected form an outsized figure like Magee who has been known to call out people on social media.  But as the book goes along, you can’t help but side with him.  I expect someone could write a companion volume that focuses on the negative aspects which would be just as truthful.

What surprised me was the ending of the book.  Not the Chicago brewery epilogue but Magee’s take on where he has been and what he has learned.  In particular, this chunk has still stuck with me:

So, after all the time and all the histrionics, what is the net result? What are we, where are we going, and what do we mean? Those are the questions every twenty- one- year- old asks himself. Twenty- one happens to be the brewery’s current age— a time of necessary choices and uncertain paths. For my part, I hold this question as central to the reeling in and rolling forward of this company. We don’t want to be just “whatever we are” in the future, because I think we have become something interesting now and are worthy of a good life as a brand among brands in a world that we helped to create. The answers to these questions are important for us to know going forward, so that we can play out our strengths. It’s a delicate thing to write about, the future.