The brewery raised some eyebrows when it released Summer Shandy in February, and Jake Leinenkugel admits the brewery has considered making Summer Shandy a permanent offering.
"Did we consider keeping it year-round? Sure. But to own summer, which is by far the biggest beer drinking occasion, is not a bad place to be from a business perspective," he said. "It's meant a lot to the beer drinker, and I think the beer business in general, to have something new and different in the summer months."
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Much like the Summer Shandy brand, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing was not an overnight success. The family has been brewing beer since 1867, and it now has sixth-generation family members involved.
"It's very special. I have a lot people tell me that very seldom do family businesses go beyond the third generation, so for us to be starting in the sixth, we pinch ourselves and are appreciative of what we've been given," said Jake Leinenkugel.
While the brewery's sale to MillerCoors in 1988 has placed it outside the Brewers Association definition of "craft brewery," which requires a brewery to be independently owned, the Leinenkugel family's 146-year brewing heritage provides a unique perspective. As they see it, the debate over labels and definitions is misguided at a time when beer sales as an overall category are flat.
"From the consumer perspective, it's not part of their conversation," said Dick Leinenkugel. "They're really engaged with what beer are they going to buy for the occasion, and are they enjoying the beer they are drinking at that time?"
"I think we need to be smarter as a collective industry, get some common ground and rally around beer," added Jake. "Even with Leinenkugel and Blue Moon at MillerCoors or Goose Island (with Anheuser Busch InBev), there are still more than 2,500 independent, local craft brewers. There is a large beer industry that needs to get more beer consumption to be a healthier, more thriving industry."
—By CNBC's Tom Rotunno. Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno.