Lagunitas to close Chicago brewing operations this summer

An unexpected shakeup in the Windy City's craft brewing landscape was revealed Thursday, when Lagunitas Brewing Company announced it will permanently close its Chicago production facility and return to its West Coast roots.

Once one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in the country, the company – founded more than 30 years ago – began producing IPAs at its commercial brewery in the city’s Douglass Park neighborhood in 2014.

"This was a facility that was built to make a million barrels of beer every year," said Karl Klockars, co-founder of "Taking that out of the equation is going to have a big impact."

After 10 years of production on the West Side, Lagunitas will shutter its Chicago plant on Aug. 1 and consolidate into its original brew house in Petaluma, California.

"It is a mecca of large-scale, great beer that’s brewed right here in Chicago and it’s a pretty sizable shift away from that," said Ray Stout, executive director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.

(Lagunitas Brewing Company)

By the time Lagunitas announced the move Thursday, its Chicago ‘TapRoom’ was already closed for good.

"I was coming here to hopefully have a last drink, or a last pint of IPA," said Ryan Fox, a customer. "I’m surprised they completely shuttered doors right away like that."

All that will remain in Chicago is the company’s warehouse, adjacent to its commercial brewery, which will be used for storage and packaging.

(Lagunitas Brewing Company)

In a press release issued Thursday, the company explained it is working to "future-proof the organization amid changing tides in the craft beverage industry."

"Beer is flat to down over the last year, just overall, so if you’re not growing, you have to make some uncomfortable decisions in times like these," said Klockars.

Klockars, who authored ‘Beer Lover’s Chicago,’ and Stout both told FOX 32 Chicago that despite beer consumption being down overall, this change will have a significant ripple effect on the entire industry.

"Each brewery job creates three other jobs up and down the supply chain, and so we are not just talking about folks that work at the brewery – we are talking about everything that comes along with it: distributors, artists, marketing people," said Stout.

"The beers that Lagunitas makes in Chicago ostensibly go all over the world, wherever Heineken wants to send them," added Klockars. "As long as the Lagunitas facility has been in business, I’ve enjoyed knowing that the beers produced there are being drank all over the world, and that’s just not going to be the case anymore."

The changes will impact 86 employees, some of whom will stay on in remote roles while others will have the opportunity to relocate to California, the company said.

"We are committed to managing this transition thoughtfully, smoothly and with deep respect for our valued Chicago Lagunitas employees," said Lagunitas spokesperson Sam Kennedy.

Those who are not retained will receive retention incentives to work through the transition as well as departure packages, which include support services and job-placement assistance, the statement said.

It added: "The transition will allow for a more efficient and flexible supply chain, with a greater focus on innovation and the acceleration of more sustainable brewing practices."

Company officials said Chicago remains an important market for Lagunitas, and it will continue to provide its products to the city's bars, restaurants, and stores.