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Heineken buys full ownership of California craft brewer Lagunitas

Dutch brewing giant Heineken said Thursday it bought full ownership of California craft beer maker Lagunitas Brewing Co. in a move to further expand Lagunitas’ overseas distribution.

Heineken, which acquired a 50% stake in Lagunitas two years ago, didn’t disclose how much it paid for the remaining half.

Amsterdam-based Heineken already had helped Lagunitas move into France, Mexico, Italy and Spain while expanding the craft brewer’s presence in other foreign markets, including Britain, Canada and Japan.

With Heineken’s full ownership and vast distribution channels — the company has 165 breweries in 70 countries — “Heineken will accelerate the export of Lagunitas to many more markets around the world,” Heineken said.

“Only by fully committing to this relationship can we both respond to the historic opportunity that awaits us in all 24 time zones,” Lagunitas founder Tony Magee said in a statement.

Magee started Lagunitas in 1993. The Petaluma, Calif., company also has a brewery in Chicago and plans a third in Azusa that initially would produce more than 400,000 barrels a year.

Lagunitas is known for its India pale ale style of beer, one of the fastest-growing categories in the craft-beer segment, which has been outperforming the overall U.S. beer market.

Craft beers produced by about 5,300 breweries accounted for 12.3% of overall U.S. beer volumes last year, according to the Brewers Assn. trade group.

That’s why major brewers have been acquiring smaller craft brewers. Two years ago, for instance, Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles’ largest craft brewer, and alcoholic beverage conglomerate Constellation Brands Inc. bought Ballast Point Brewing Co. in San Diego.

The deals often have prompted grumbling among some craft-beer purists. But Lagunitas will continue operating independently within Heineken to help “maintain the Lagunitas culture and free spirit,” the companies said, adding that Magee would remain executive chairman of Lagunitas and be supported by his current management team.

james.peltz@latimes.com

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes

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