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Book Review: So You Want to Start a Brewery?

So You Want to Start a Brewery? Book Review

So You Want To Start A Brewery?

by Tony Magee

Chicago Review Press, Softcover, $17.95, 224 pp.

Tony Magee, founder and owner of Lagunitas, is somewhat like the Willy Wonka of brewing. He eschews formality and scoffs at convention, yet manages to churn out stimulating and flavorful products.

This brewer’s tale is the story of Lagunitas told through the winking eyes of Magee. In standard Lagunitas fashion, he strays from a typical narrative trajectory in favor of a stream of consciousness approach. The result, while sometimes roundabout, is a more intimate view of what it takes to successfully grow a brewery, or any other business.

First off, it takes determination. Magee spent more than a decade walking a monetary tightrope with a legion of hungry debtors waiting below him. Even the IRS was onto him. But he pulled strings and pushed buttons and eventually escaped the gaping maw of financial insolvency.

Magee mans the helm with naught but his strong sense of identity to guide him. His preferred method for settling big-time deals is with a handshake, and he created the iconic Lagunitas dog logo on a Mac at a Kinko’s in 1995, the same place he wrote the majority of the copy for the labels.

His writing style matches his business mentality. He dives in headlong, exists within the given medium, and lets the chips fall where they may. Apparently, it’s a winning strategy.

“I have long thought that others who see their life as separate from their work (work time vs. personal time) end up with only half a career and, worse, only half a life. If we were all still the hunter gatherers (that we actually still are), the idea of ‘personal time’ would be synonymous with starvation.”

Magee’s book won’t win awards for brevity, but it’s one of the most honest brewing-related books you’ll come across. When Magee does reach his point, it’s often profound.