Lagunitas Brewing Co. goes beyond beer with a spiked tea drink
Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma has become world famous for brewing some of the most hoppy beer in the world that helped put the India pale ale style on the map.
Now this craft beer behemoth is taking its turn at brewing another drink: tea.
Lagunitas has unveiled a hard tea product with 5% alcohol content called Disorderly TeaHouse and it will come in two flavors: yuzu lemon and berry.
The sparkling drinks will not be available on retail shelves until next year but they can be sampled at its Petaluma brewpub, said Paige Guzman, the chief marketing officer for Lagunitas, which is owned by Dutch beer giant Heineken International.
The hard tea drinks represent the company’s first step into the malt beverage category that has been overtaken in recent years by the tremendous growth in hard seltzer, which had retail sales of $2.7 billion on annual basis through mid June, according to the market research firm Nielsen. That was a 127% increase in sales compared with the previous year.
The rise of hard seltzer has presented a quandary for large craft brewers who grew through the last 25 years by distinguishing themselves from the bland Budweiser and Miller brews with flavorful IPA beers and other innovative styles.
They are conscious of not wanting to be perceived as jumping on a trendy bandwagon for the sake of growth. For example, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico has produced a hard kombucha, while Dogfish Head Brewery of Milton, Delaware offered canned cocktails as it also operates a brewery as well. One notable outlier was Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido that did jump into the hard seltzer market though its growth has recently showed signs of slowing.
“We wanted to elevate it to have the Lagunitas spin on it,” Guzman said of the hard tea. “This is a craft product by our brewers. Brewers are going to brew, whether they brew beer or the brew tea.”
The hard tea idea came from the brewing staff who became fans of guayusa tea from Ecuador and started kicking around the idea of putting alcohol into the mix, Guzman said.
The tea leaf is from Ecuador, a cousin to yerba mate, though it is less bitter as a result of a lack of tannins. The company works with about 90 Indigenous families from Ecuador to source the tea.
“We put it in the taproom and it started flying out,” Guzman said.
The company will launch a $4 million digital marketing and advertising campaign with the rollout under the Lagunitas portfolio and its core IPA brands, she said, noting “it’s a really big bet for us.”
The brewer has been active in other innovative beverages. It worked with Santa Rosa-based CannaCraft in producing a cannabis drink sold only at licensed pot dispensaries and has used the sparkling hop base, Hoppy Refresher, as part of its non-alcohol line. Last year, it released IPNA, its non-alcohol beer that has become the No. 2 popular craft beer in that category, Guzman said.
“Disorderly TeaHouse brings us back into that beyond beer category where we have seen so much growth across the category,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.