how big is lagunitas chicago

Just How Big Is Lagunitas Chicago, Anyways?

In Beer News by Karl

How big is Lagunitas Chicago? It’s real big. (And getting bigger.)

how big is lagunitas chicago

Overlooking the massive double brewhouse at Lagunitas Chicago.

Not too long ago, news broke that Lagunitas planned to expand the capacity of their already-huge brewery in Douglas Park in order to add a rooftop taproom, another bottling line, more cold storage and an amphitheater (which was part of the original plans, but they’re just moving forward with the concert space now). This would allow them to basically triple the amount of beer they’re currently brewing there.

But how much do they brew there? And here’s what we really wanted to know: how does their output compare to other Chicago-area and Illinois breweries overall? We ran some numbers.

Per the Trib’s story, communications director Karen Hamilton delivered the following stats:

“The Chicago brewery produces about 405,000 barrels per year, beer that’s distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and overseas in Europe, Hamilton said. The second bottling line and additional fermenters would enable the facility to max out at 1.2 million barrels a year.”

…which is huge.

According to 2015 figures (the most recent available from the Brewers Association), Lagunitas ranked as the sixth biggest craft brewer in the country and tenth largest brewer overall. The new list, you should note, won’t include Lagunitas due to their 50% sale to Heineken.

Certainly in terms of pure numbers, though, Lagunitas will remain one of the biggest breweries in the nation – “craft” or not. But how do they stack up against the remaining craft breweries in Illinois?

Lagunitas chicago

A mere fraction of the beer produced by Lagunitas at the Chicago facility this year.

Well, for starters, we can’t tell you exactly how they rank against Chicago’s other superbrewery, Goose Island. Despite growing exponentially over the last few years, our requests for information about how many barrels they make were denied by the brewery.

That said, Brewbound’s most recent estimates of Goose Island’s volume is at “upwards of 480,000 barrels”, which means that if those numbers are accurate, the Lagunitas brewery nearly matches the output of all Goose beer brewed at the A-B megaplants, PLUS the Fulton Street facility. Not bad.

Beyond even that is the scope of the brewery compared to the rest of our local craft scene. We can tell you that based on 2015 data provided by the Brewers Association, supplemented by other research we’ve done and numbers we’ve received privately, we’ve determined that Chicago area breweries aside from Goose and Lagunitas made roughly 235,000 barrels of beer in 2015.

By our math, this means that Lagunitas Chicago alone makes about 42% more beer than every other Chicagoland brewery.

As an aside, out of that 235K number, Revolution produced just shy of 65,000 barrels, meaning that out of every 3.5 beers made by a Chicago area brewery, one of them is a Revolution beer.

What about the rest of the state? Well, when you roll in the barrelage from breweries outside of Chicago, that brings the total Illinois production to just over 276,000 bbls in 2015.

So yeah…by our math, the Lagunitas Chicago plant is roughly 32% bigger than every other brewery in Illinois combined.

Something to think about the next time you’re having a Sucks in the taproom and you find yourself hypnotized by the bottling line cranking out case after case of IPA, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ or Aunt Sally.

Where will these numbers land when 2016 reporting is complete? It’ll be interesting to see, since Finch Beer — the state’s fourth largest brewery in 2015 — sales reportedly dropped by 64% according to IRI data. Elsewhere, breweries like Slapshot, Ale Syndicate and Arcade have ceased production. (And has anyone seen anything from Big Shoulders Beer Company lately?)

Those losses should certainly be offset by the many Illinois breweries that are continuously expanding their capacity and sales — for example, Revolution’s growth plan that helped push a September expansion into New York will certainly send their number much higher for 2016.

So, to sum up: If you thought Lagunitas Chicago was huge, you were right. And now you have an idea of just how huge, and how right.

A few notes about these numbers and how we reached our calculations: The Brewers Association builds an annual list of self-reported barrelage from all available breweries, which they provided to us for this post. (This process is currently going on for 2016 numbers, which should be released somewhere around April.) Breweries can opt not to have their barrelage published publicly, and a number of Illinois breweries took this option.

We reached out to all of those breweries separately to see if they would divulge those numbers privately to us, and nearly all of them did. We say nearly because there were a couple nonresponders, but based on their size we don’t believe their exclusion significantly affects our calculations. We rolled their numbers into the overall total for Chicago and Illinois breweries.

That said, these estimates are provided for comparison basis and aren’t exact – many of the breweries provided overall estimates to the BA in the first place — but most of the numbers provided were specific and accurate. And in case you’re wondering, we built our “Chicagoland” estimate based on numbers reported by breweries in Chicago, Cook County as well as the collar-county area.

One fun final factoid: Lagunitas Chicago operates with two 250bbl brewhouses. One turn on each of those represents as much or more beer than 75 breweries in Illinois made all year long in 2015.

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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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