By Lauren Rothering
Editor in Chief
Thomas Jacob “Jake” Leinenkugel spoke at Saint Mary’s University about entrepreneurship and the business of brewing on April 28.
Jake is the fifth generation of Leinenkugels to act as president of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. Located in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Leinenkugel’s was founded in 1867 by Jake’s great-great grandfather, Jacob Leinenkugel. After starting with just one beer—now called “Leinenkugel’s Original”—the brewer now offers 11 different styles of lager, including the ever-popular seasonal selections, such as Oktoberfest and Summer Shandy.
“Beer is one of life’s simple pleasures, and most of you have done your market research,” said Jake with a laugh.
In his speech, Jake explained that the craft beer industry is different from “big beer” in many ways. Beer giants, like Anheuser-Bush and MillerCoors, control about 80 percent of the market. Imports, like Corona and Heineken, control another 10 percent, leaving just 10 percent for domestic craft beers.
Despite this, the craft beer industry is growing rapidly. According to Jake, 97 percent of all new breweries opened in the U.S. in 2010 were craft breweries. While U.S. beer sales were down in both 2009 and 2010, craft brewing sales increased dramatically.
According to Jake, a driving force behind the “renaissance of craft brewing” has been college-aged students. Because the millennial generation is always looking for variety, said Jake, they are always looking for the newest beer selection, which many times are new craft brews.
Aside from the business success of Leinenkugel’s, Jake also emphasized the company’s dedication to the environment, specifically water conservation.
Leinenkugel’s made a pledge to reduce their water usage by 50 percent over five years. Just two years into the project, they have already reduced their usage by 54 percent.
Ultimately, Jake said, Leinenkugel’s is not just a brewery—it is a family company strongly rooted in the Midwest that will never lose its hometown base.
“The story of who we are is Chippewa Falls,” said Jake. “I want Leinenkugel’s to be famous for family, friends and fun.”