Even if Tony Magee was at work right now in Petaluma, instead of vacationing in France, you'd envy his job.
He makes beer, after all, and seems to have a heck of a lot of fun in the process.
What other business owner would reply to a competitor's threat of a trademark lawsuit with a cavalier Twitter posting: "Good news is, I'll let ya have the 420 thing. Is that a win?"
Most executives would have called in their lawyers had their company received a demand letter claiming trademark infringement. Magee, of Lagunitas Brewing Co., essentially shrugged and said, No biggie; it's yours.
We shouldn't be surprised. The 52-year-old owner of one of the country's most successful craft breweries may take beer seriously, but not much else. The Lagunitas motto is, after all: Beer speaks. People mumble.
But Magee mumbles in a way that demands attention — even as he deflects it. He practices a brand of back-yard philosophy that sounds mushy at first blush, but has actually turned into an effective marketing tool.
Take this quote, for example, from a profile of Magee written by the PD's Sean Scully a few months ago:
"I don't think we're in the beer business ... we're in the tribe-building business," he told Scully.
In other words, you're not just a customer if you drink Lagunitas IPA or Hairy Eyeball or Little Sumpin' Sumpin'. You're a member of the tribe. You're not just quaffing beer. You're participating in a social ritual.
For a piece on NBCNews.com that highlighted Magee's plans to expand Lagunitas from its Petaluma roots with a new brewery in Chicago, Magee gently undermined any suggestion that he is a beer baron growing his empire:
"Life is a process of elimination. You really don't know what you need or what you want, you only know for sure what you won't tolerate any more," he said as he toured his Petaluma brewery with a camera crew. "So we try to keep business-school language at bay here because we want to communicate like humans."
You think the CEO of Anheuser Busch talks like that?
And, while Magee is clearly a clever businessman, his schtick doesn't come off as an act. When he suggested (via Twitter) that Sweetwater Brewing Co. founder Freddy Bensch should have called him about the trademark issue instead of sending a threatening letter, he also included his cell phone number on the public Twitter feed.
What you see is what you get with Magee.
And about that trademark thing. As Scully reported this week, the dustup is about Lagunitas's use on some of its labels of "420," the stoner code for marijuana. Magee for years has been less than subtle about associating his beer with that other popular mind-altering drug. He slapped "Censored" across the labels of his Kronick copper ale after federal regulators refused to approve the name that is another reference to pot. He created Undercover Investigation Shut Down Ale after agents briefly closed his business when customers were seen smoking pot on the premises. And "420" appears on labels and posters for several of his products.
Sweetwater brews a pale ale called 420, and it claimed a federal trademark in demanding Lagunitas quit using it.
Magee, again via Twitter, noted he's never named a beer 420, but he'll quit using the reference anyway. "It's cool," he wrote. "Rules r rules."