By Jason Foster March 5th, 2015
Want to own part of a brewery? Now you can for as little as $150.
Better yet, want to be a part of the Temperance movement? No, the two aren’t contradictions, at least not in Saskatoon these days.
You see, a group of aspiring brewers have launched Temperance Brewing Co-operative Ltd. which hopes to be rolling out craft beer in Saskatoon sometime in 2016. In many ways it is an ordinary brewery start-up, trying to round up capital at the same time as they sample test batches and finalize plans for the future brewery.
Except that Temperance is structured as a co-op, an unfamiliar legal entity and particularly rare in the beer world. Most breweries adopt a standard corporate structure, with ownership shares and a for-profit purpose, meaning both the control of and the benefits from the brewery accrue to the owners. We all get to share their beer, of course, but the profits only go in one direction.
The co-op model turns that on its head. “We won’t make a profit in a strict sense”, says Adam Worobec, one of the founding members of the Co-op. “We can’t do dividends. Profits of the company will be folded back into the company”. This may sound odd to many, but it is a standard procedure for co-ops.
Co-ops are a form of democratic, collective ownership that spreads both the risk and the decision-making authority. Without getting too technical, Temperance in the parlance is a consumer co-op, much like MEC or Co-op grocery stores. $150 buys you a share in the co-op and gives you a slice of the organization’s ownership. With membership comes some key rights. “Members get a vote, priority access to beer and events, brewery discounts and a say in what beer we brew” says Worobec.
Temperance’s plan is to build a base of a few hundred members who are invested, both financially and psychologically, in the brewery. They hope to leverage the capital raised from members into additional financing for a 10 to 20 hectolitre brewery with a full-service tap room to serve the region. As an initial step, they hope later this year to contract brew a beer to get the name out and start generating some revenue.
“This year is about the membership drive and a funding drive. Hopefully by next year we will be putting the wheels in motion on our own stuff”, says Worobec.
The project started, not surprisingly, over some beer. About 10 homebrewers talked about starting up a co-op beer operation. “Opening a U-Brew was the first idea, where members have access to the equipment. But once we started digging into the legalities of that, it eliminated itself from consideration due to needing a large enough system.” Rather than quit, they decided to go all in and Temperance Brewing Co-op was born.
“We still hope to have a smaller-scale system in the brewery for members to access, but we are focusing on building a full-scale brewery”.
The name comes from Saskatoon’s history. “Saskatoon was originally a temperance colony” observes Worobec. “There is a long history of the temperance movement around here. A lot of the SLGA rules can be traced back to that movement. The name is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.”
Connection to the community is a strong ethos in Temperance. “We hope to name our beer after Saskatoon neighbourhoods and parts of Saskatchewan”. However, Worobec adds, names will likely be subject to member vote – another right of membership. The brewery name was selected by rank ballot of the original members and future members will be polled on things like styles to brew, beer names and other aspects of the brewery operations. Final decisions on beer will rest with the brewmaster, for obvious reasons, but members will be encouraged to submit ideas. “We will have events where members can bring beer and recipes. We will have competitions of homebrewed suggestions”.
At this stage in their development, Worobec couldn’t offer insights into the styles of beer or their names. The process for deciding such has not yet happened.
Because of their decision to eschew traditional capital models, co-ops have to work much harder to make things happen. Worobec and his fellow members are in the early stages, but they are encouraged by the response so far. “Membership sales are going much faster than we anticipated”. At this rate, Saskatchewan will be seeing a new, co-operatively-owned brewery sooner rather than later.
And keep in mind, you don’t have to live in Saskatoon to be a member. “Anyone across Canada can join.”