According to a statement by Molson Coors, Dick Leinenkugel, who led his family-founded Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company to an audience of drinkers across the USA via the massive hit Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, will retire at the end of 2022 after serving eight years as president of the brewery.
Leinenkugel, 64, will pass the baton to his nephew and sixth-generation Leinenkugel, Tony Bugher, who will be charged with steering the 155-year-old Chippewa Falls, Wisc.-based brewery into its next chapter.
Bugher, 45, joined Molson Coors at his uncle’s urging in 2014 and has progressed through several roles in the company, including craft and import manager, field marketing manager and senior distributor sales executive. He recently took over as associate marketing manager for Leinenkugel’s, where he works on sales and distributor engagement and branded partnerships and is overseeing the installation of a new pilot brewery in Chippewa Falls that’s slated to come online this spring.
“I am just thrilled that another descendent of Jacob Leinenkugel will now lead our brewery,” Dick Leinenkugel says. “The more family members we can have be part of this business, the better. Working with the Molson and Coors families has been a blessing, especially when it comes to understanding the value of heritage in a business.”
Bugher, whose mother, Kate, was Leinenkugel’s first tour guide when the brewery opened for tours in 1967, aims to continue the legacy set by previous generations of Leinenkugel leaders while pushing “the constant evolution” of the brewery and its brands to modernize and connect with a new generation of drinkers.
“Each generation of Leinenkugel’s leadership has made a significantly positive impact throughout our 155 years of brewing history,” Bugher says. “It’s an honor and a privilege to have that opportunity to continue the legacy alongside my uncle John and cousins Katie and Matt Leinenkugel. I appreciate all that I’ve learned from Dick throughout the past eight years and look forward the future of our family’s storied brand that we love so much.”
Big shoes to fill
Dick Leinenkugel, who was named president of Leinenkugel’s in October 2014 after his brother, Jake, stepped aside, spent the majority of his career with the brewery, starting in 1987 as a sales representative based in Chicago. A year later, his family would sell Leinenkugel’s to Miller Brewing. By 1994, Dick Leinenkugel was named vice president of sales for Leinenkugel’s and took on the additional responsibility for marketing in 1997. Over the next decade, his teams led the expansion of Leinenkugel’s Red Lager and helped build and expand Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss and Berry Weiss brands. Then came Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, an easy-drinking beer inspired by a classic German beer recipe of mixing beer and lemonade.
The brand, which launched in 2007 in the Great Lakes region, quickly exploded into a national phenomenon with a proven staying power that few brands can boast. “It’s rare in a beer career where you get the opportunity to launch a brand that’s first in its category, and that really stands out to me as one of our team’s biggest accomplishments,” Leinenkugel says. “It’s truly a terrific beer.”
He left briefly in 2008 to serve as Wisconsin’s Commerce Secretary and returned in 2010 in a leadership role for Tenth & Blake, Molson Coors’ U.S. craft division.
Four years later, upon the retirement of his brother, Jake, Dick Leinenkugel was tapped to become Leinenkugel’s seventh president.
Over his tenure, he has guided the brewery through a series of new products, including recent additions such as Lemon Haze IPA, Toasted Bock, Chocolate Dunkel and Juicy Peach. He’s also continued to grow attendance at the Leinie Lodge, which today welcomes more than 125,000 visitors each year. And he spearheaded the project to build out the pilot brewing system that will help enable Leinenkugel’s to remain relevant in the years ahead.