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Lagunitas Brewing Co. ranks as sixth largest craft brewer in US

Founder and owner Tony Magee at Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

BILL SWINDELL,

Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma ranked as the sixth largest craft brewer in the country last year, according to figures released Tuesday by an industry trade group.

Lagunitas’ growth continued last year as it ramped up production at its second plant in Chicago. It is poised for even greater sales, as a third facility it has planned for Azusa, in the San Gabriel Valley, is scheduled to start production next year.

But Lagunitas’ ranking in the craft beer category by the trade group, the Colorado-based Brewers Association, will come to an end next year under its guidelines.

The association classifies craft brewers as those that produce 6 million barrels or less annually or have less than 25 percent of their ownership stake by a major brewer or alcohol beverage manufacturer.

That would disqualify Lagunitas because last year it entered into a 50-50 partnership with Heineken International.

Tony Magee, Lagunitas founder and executive chairman, has questioned the usefulness of the word “craft beer” in an era of buyouts and once remarked the term has outlived its usefulness. Lagunitas ranked last year as the 10th largest overall brewer nationally.

California led the nation with 12 craft brewers in the top 50, according the Brewers Association. It included Bear Republic Brewing Co. of Cloverdale at 44th place and North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg at 48th place.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.