State's First Brewery Co-Op About to Open

Updated: 08/20/2014 6:50 PM
Created: 08/20/2014 3:27 PM
By: Josh Rosenthal

Minnesota has more than 50 breweries and about 800 co-ops. Now, in the not too distant future, we'll have our first brewery co-op.

Niko Tonks, Matt Hauck, and Evan Sallee - old college buddies and home brewers - are the brains behind the business, called Fair State Brewing Cooperative.

"The first beer we made was a pumpkin ale, with some pumpkin spices and some actual pumpkin in it, which was quite a mess," Hauck said.

Basically, people pay $200 to become a member of the co-op, or $300 for a couple. Members own a share of the brewery, they can vote and run for the board of directors. Within a few years they might receive refunds based on yearly profits. They also get recipe input, which is all on top of other perks like member happy hours.

"We are essentially owned by our customers," Sallee said.

So far, the co-op has about 300 members, or in other words, roughly an extra $60,000 to get the business started.

"You might know of a lot of local food grocery co-ops," Sallee said. "We're following a similar model where our patrons essentially can have a real ownership stake in the brewery that we have here."

One economist describes the Fair State plan as "unique." He said it's "probably a smart way to go."

Getting new members down the road is the only potential problem he mentioned. Sallee says that'll always be a challenge, but the goal is for the business to be self-sustaining, regardless of memberships.

Patrick Murray,  with Cooperative Network which represents co-op’s in Minnesota and Wisconsin, also likes the idea. He said, "there is a significant and growing interest in developing cooperatively-owned micro-breweries across the country and it’s not a surprise that one of the first developed in the United States would be here in the cooperative heartland of Minnesota."

Fair State Brewing Cooperative is aiming for a soft opening right around Labor Day.

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