MicroBrewr 047: Proof of concept for a brewpub co-op, with Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery.

MicroBrewr 047: Proof of concept for a brewpub co-op

If you’re thinking of starting a brewpub, the cooperative business model might be the way to go. Chris Hamje has been at Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery, in Austin, Texas, since shortly after they opened. He explains how the cooperative model plays out for their operation.

Jessica Brook Deahl, an accomplished and self-proclaimed "Beer Artist" at her opening show with head brewer Chris Hamje of Black Star Co-op.

Jessica Brook Deahl, an accomplished and self-proclaimed “Beer Artist” at her opening show with head brewer Chris Hamje of Black Star Co-op.

“There’s a lot of precedence for a worker-owned factory model,” explains Chris. “When you look at beer, this is a very high-tech fabrication plant. The model works very well, the precedence is there historically, for this exact operational process. When you take the people who are moving parts of this factory, giving the most creative input in what the product is like, you suddenly have something really special. And that works really well in the craft beer movement.”

There are many ways to organize a brewery co-op. Black Star has 2 member bases.

There are about 3,000 “patrons” worldwide, who pay $150 for a lifetime membership, and gain the right to elect a 9-seat board of directors.

The “workers assembly” has great autonomy as they follow the board policies on a day-to-day basis. Employees must work at the co-op for one year before going before an election to gain a place on the workers assembly. The workers assembly has one meeting each month, and votes on day-to-day operations.

Other podcasts about breweries as co-ops:

MicroBrewr 046: Start your brewery as a worker-owned co-op

MicroBrewr 049: Planning California’s first cooperative brewpub

Chris is currently preparing to start a production, package brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, in Austin that will also be a co-op. He has lots of advice, including:

  • Look at how your state’s laws treat a co-op.
  • Choose a location with high visibility.
  • Take a class in organic chemistry.
  • Hire an extra staff member.

Last week we talked with Sustainable Economies Law Center to get an overview of the cooperative business model and how it might apply to a brewery. Next week we’ll hear from San Jose Co-op Brew Pub about their plans to start California’s first co-op brewery.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 10 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 10-BBL.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 5, 10-BBL.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: A little over 700 BBL.

Square footage: Around 900 sq. ft., including a mezzanine.

Years in operation: 4 years (opened 2010).

“Always have that little bit of fear that drives you to learn more.” [Tweet This]


Listener question:

From Zack Chance: Where do you recommend buying ingredients on the West Coast? How do estimate the number of customers in a year?

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour Beer

Other resources:

You can reach Chris Hamje and Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery at:


San Jose Co-op Brewpub

“Be co-owner in California’s first co-op brewpub.”

San Jose Co-op Brewpub "Be a co-cowner in California's first co-op brewpub." http://sjcoopbrewpub.com/microbrewr/

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Once again MicroBrewr Podcast is discussing Cooperative Breweries with an interview with Black Star Brewery in Austin Texas.  As many of you know Black Star are the ones who got this all started and showed that it was absolutely possible to succeed.  This is the first episode that SJCBP has sponsored, so please check it out and tell all of your friends!  Click here to give it a listen. […]

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