Rise of the Co-op Brewery Business Model
Today, there are over 4,000 breweries operating in the United States; that figure is the highest that it’s been since before the Prohibition Act. Due to the booming success of the craft breweries in the past decade, a new and innovative method for funding brand new craft companies has begun to emerge. Joint-owned, democratically-operated craft breweries are the latest hot topic on the forefront of craft beer industry news. Enter, the co-op brewery.
Advantages of Community-Based Co-op Breweries
Whereas traditional brewing startups have historically presented the challenge of uncertainty surrounding community reception, co-op breweries generally have a huge amount of community support. The healthy local support that co-ops commonly receive is a direct result of these breweries being jointly developed by locals who are already integrated into their communities.
Traditional breweries generally demand that the founders already have a strong base of capital to begin investing in the development phase. Co-op breweries allow joint supporters to circumvent the hurdle of startup money by pooling their resources together. Another financial advantage is the ability that founders have to recoup their investments and redistribute it towards new facilities and equipment at a later time.
What may possibly be the strongest element of the co-op brewery development model is the high degree of diversity brought to the table by all of the founders. Due to lifetime memberships being very affordable and non-demanding, members are left with a lot of time and flexibility to pursue their own careers and develop unique skills to contribute that they can contribute to the business at their leisure.
Overall, co-op breweries are financially flexible incubators for creativity, job creation, and community empowerment. New members of community-supported beer companies can gain a limited liability affiliation with one of the most promising alternative business models of the decade, without needing to mortgage their homes or take out massive bank loans.
Current Co-op Craft Breweries in the United States
Austin, Texas-based Black Star Co-op was the very first cooperated craft beer business to be developed. The initial founder had already gained tumultuous experience putting together his own tradition craft brewery business, and one day, he entertained the idea of a cooperative venture.
It didn’t take long for the Black Star Co-op project to develop momentum. After 3 years of stabilizing the plans and 2 years of construction, Black Star had finally come to fruition. Before its very first opening, over 3,000 people prepared to visit the brewery.
Due to the extreme amount of support surrounding the project, the main challenge that the Black Star team encountered on their first day was a shortage of hands to properly maintain all of their booming business traffic.
Two other pioneer co-op movements are Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery and Bellingham Beer Lab. Bellingham Beer Lab’s blueprint was modeled after the Carlton Winemakers Studio, drawing inspiration from the Carlton studio’s shared production space and tasting room.
Currently, there are over 1,000 co-op craft brewery projects in development. If the observed success of the craft beer industry over the past decasde continues, there’s no telling just how many more co-op breweries might be created.