Jake Leinenkugel is a man you want to be sitting next to when there's beer around. It's the seventh inning of a spring training game between the Brewers and the Diamondbacks, and everyone in a 20-foot radius seems to be sipping on a Summer Shandy purchased by the brewery patriarch. By game's end, he'll have bought beers for about 100 different people.
"I remember the days when these things were $2.50," he admits as he hands over the eight bucks or so a beer costs at the modern ballpark. But this is what Thomas Jacob Leinenkugel does these days. The eldest brother of the Leinenkugel clan, Jake was president of his family's eponymous brewery from 1989 to 2015, expanding its distribution footprint into all 50 states and building it into one of the largest breweries in the country. Now that he's retired from "official" brewery work, Jake spends a majority of his time in Arizona, where he and his wife have come for the last 25 years for the brewery's sales training meetings. (There's actually a strong link between the Leinenkugels and the Grand Canyon State -- Jake's grandmother lived in Tucson for more than 60 years, his father grew up there, and his brother started a branch of the Arizona Bank back in the 70s). Management of the brewery is in the hands of brother Dick, who took over as president, as well as several members of the next generation of Leinenkugels; Jake gets to golf, hike, travel and buy beers for baseball fans.
After the game, Leinenkugel sat down to discuss the runaway success of his brewery's seasonal Summer Shandy, brewery buyouts, the changes he's witnessed during his 40 years in the beer industry and what's coming next for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. More »