Beer news: Lagunitas to open colossal brewery in Azusa

Petaluma, Calif.-based craft beer powerhouse Lagunitas Brewery is coming to the Southland in a big way. The company’s third brewery is currently under construction in Azusa, mere “spitting distance” from the Irwindale MillerCoors plant, and it will be the largest craft brewing facility in L.A. County. 

Lagunitas founder and owner Tony Magee made the announcement last week via his Twitter stream, and a few more details have since come to light. With a planned opening date in 2017, the brewery will initially produce more than 400,000 barrels of craft beer annually with a maximum capacity of one million barrels per year.

That’s a tremendous amount of craft suds (to compare, Golden Road Brewing -- currently the largest craft brewery in Los Angeles -- estimates that it’ll produce 60,000 barrels of beer this year), and it would make Lagunitas, already the 6th largest craft brewery in the country, a powerful player in the expanding Southern California market.

Magee says the 180,000-square-foot Azusa facility would provide fresher brews throughout the Southwest and allow for expanded international distribution. There will, of course, also be a tap room and events space at the new facility.

"L.A. was generally attractive due to the large population of beer lovers emerging there, and also because it is a different cultural landscape and has a lot in common with the Southwest," Magee told the Petaluma Argus-Courier

The new brewery will employ about 150 people, and Magee has plans to build the facility to be the most water-efficient brewery in the world. Magee is hoping building a facility from the ground up, with an eye toward water conservation, could reduce water usage to just two gallons of water for every one gallon of beer. Most craft brewing operations use upward of five gallons of water for every gallon of beer they produce. 

Lagunitas opened its second brewery in Chicago last year, and it’s projected to hit a capacity of 1.2 million barrels of beer in a few years. The original Petaluma facility, opened in 1993, is nearing its annual capacity of 750,000 barrels. The additional million-barrel capacity of the Azusa brewery could mean an annual production of nearly 3 million barrels of Lagunitas IPA, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, and the other irreverent brews that have made Lagunitas a fan favorite.

Initial response from local craft brewers has been mixed, but Strand Brewing co-founder Rich Marcello sees the development as a good thing.

“Anything that puts L.A. more on the craft beer map is good for me,” said Marcello -- one of the first entrepreneurs to open a craft brewery in L.A. County when he and his brewing partner Joel Elliott opened their Torrance brewery in 2010. “A seasoned veteran [such as Magee] recognizing the maturing Los Angeles market bodes well for what I want to do. They are validating L.A. as a beer city.”

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