Thomas Jacob Leinenkugel

Some people are born to be leaders. Others are born to be transformers. Some are born to be wild. And sometimes, with the right recipe and brewing cycle, you get them all in one person. You get Jake Leinenkugel – for decades the “face” of Leinenkugel’s Beer. If he wasn’t real, he’s the kind of character you’d put a whole creative team together to create. Good luck with that. Because you couldn’t make this guy up.

Thomas “Jake” Leinenkugel represents the fifth generation of beer makers who emigrated from Germany to establish the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1867. Jake has represented his family well, just as he represented his country as a Marine infantry platoon commander from 1976 to 1982. A graduate of Pepperdine University, with post-graduate studies at the Wharton Business School and Columbia University, Jake served as President of the family brewery from 1988 until he retired in 2014.

In between, Jake Leinenkugel transformed beer advertising. Before craft beer was a thing, before storytelling became a branding mandatory, Jake tapped into his family recipes for beer – and a penchant for homespun humor and keeping it real – to create a beer brand that’s the stuff of legends. With his “Letters To Jake” radio campaign, the Northwoods of Wisconsin became about as cool a place as there was. And Jake became the guy you wanted to sit down and have a beer with. He was more than happy to oblige.

Along with brothers Dick and John, Jake took the “Leinie” story and an expanding line of craft-style brews into new markets around the country. For Leinie fans, brewery tours became pilgrimages. Jake’s personal appearances became the toast of the town. And with the creation of the “Leinie Lodge,” beer lovers had a great place to gather. Whether it was in the glow of a neon in a Chicago tavern or in the brick and timber lodge that welcomes visitors to tours in Chippewa Falls.

And just when you thought the story couldn’t get any better, there’s a new chapter. Call this one “Mr. Leinenkugel Goes To Washington.” On January 20, 2017, Jake answered the call to serve his country once again as Senior White House Advisor for the Veteran’s Administration.

So here’s to Jake. Thanks to you, there’s a little Leinenkugel’s in all of us. If we’re lucky, there’s at least twelve ounces.