We call it "beer": A Q&A with Ron Lindenbusch of Lagunitas Brewing Company
Beervana’s motto is “Craft Beer Enlightenment.” In addition to the satori provided by the delectable samples in the main room, there are seminars (featuring samples of the beers being discussed — you won’t go thirsty) with Dave Engbers, a co-founder of Founders Brewing Co., and Ron Lindenbusch. Ron grew up in St. Louis, moved to California in 1984 and had his head turned around by craft brews, working his way through various arms of the industry before joining Lagunitas Brewing Company two decades ago as the head of marketing and distribution. We sent him a few questions, and he kindly answered them. Grab a quart of Sucks or a Little Sumpin’ Extra and read along.
This is the sixth year for Beervana. What do you think are the most significant changes in the better beer world since the fest debuted? There have obviously been many changes. The most significant change in our mind being the burst of interest in better beers from distributors around the country. Access to market is now possible for small brewers in markets where it wasn’t before. This allowed for the next obvious change, that being the proliferation of so many new breweries in the US. It’s a good time to be a beer drinker!
Speaking of better beer, there’s been some talk in beer forums recently re: not using the term “craft beer.” What phrase do you use to define your beer world? We like the term: “Beer.” We’re all just “brewers.” The definition of “craft” is being blurred, but at the end of the day, it is the consumer who decides what they will drink driven by product attributes. Whether they care who makes the beer or not, beer drinkers are moving in the better beer (and higher-priced) direction — some from smaller, independent brewers like us . . . some from smaller brewers with BIG partners . . . some from large brewers a la Blue Moon and Shock Top . . . some from importers such as Crown and Heineken and Diageo.
What will you be talking about at Beervana? Ingredients — malt, hops, and yeast and what it is about them that makes you like certain styles and not like others so much . . . .
Do you have any basic advice for a fest plan for first-timers? Pace yourself if you want to discover new beers — start with small samples so you can try a lot of beers without it sneaking up on you. Take notes so you can remember what you liked when you get to the store or bar. If you’re not that serious about it all but just want to come to a cool party, rock on!
We know it’s like picking a favorite child, but what’s your favorite Lagunitas brew? Our IPA has been my favorite beer since we made it in 1995. I’ll bounce around our other core beers in our Tap Room, and I love drinking the seasonals and one-offs that our brewers come up with, but I always end up back at our IPA.
Describe what quality makes Lagunitas a special beer maker. When it comes to making the highest-quality beer we can make, as well as the business end of our supplier partners and our distributors and retailers, we take it very seriously. When the business is done, we like to party our asses off. I call us the Mullet Brewery — all business up front and party in the back!
Any Lagunitas news? Our new Chicago brewery has been running full-tilt for a few months now, and all of the beer we distribute east of the Rockies is coming from Lagunitas Chicago. And we just got a fancy new coffee machine for the marketing office. able to be in that scene, almost — in my head, at least.