MicroBrewr 046: Start your brewery as a worker-owned co-op, with Sustainable Economies Law Center.

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

The cooperative business model is gaining popularity. Even many craft breweries are forming as co-ops. If you want to form your brewery as a co-op, Janelle Orsi, Executive Director of Sustainable Economies Law Center, in Oakland, California can answer your questions.

The cooperative business model is still relatively unknown. A worker-owned “co-op” is usually democratically organized, so each employee gets a vote on business decisions and elections for the board of directors. Employees earn dividends based on patronage—the amount of time they have invested in the business, rather the amount of money they have invested.

Other podcasts about breweries as co-ops:

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

MicroBrewr 049: Planning California’s first cooperative brewpub

Cooperative businesses provide many benefits to society:

  • The work source is stable because the employees aren’t as at-risk of layoff.
  • Profits stay in the local economy, rather than going to faraway shareholders.
  • Customers are happier because they know the product is made by sustainable jobs.

Cooperative businesses experience many benefits:

  • Decisions are made from many contributors.
  • Don’t have to pay double taxes like C-Corporations.
  • Workers are happier because they have a say in their environment.

“If we buy beer from a worker-owned cooperative, we’re actually reversing the flow of wealth.” [Tweet This]


Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Book recommendation:

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

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Other resources:

You can reach Janelle Orsi and Sustainable Economies Law Center at:



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7 replies
  1. Danylle
    Danylle says:

    I just received my FREE Audible book just by signing up. 🙂 super excited to listen to “The Longest Ride”. Great Podcast, I enjoyed listening !! Maybe one time you can talk about Gluten free beer.. I love beer but I am gluten intolerant 🙁

    • Nathan Pierce
      Nathan Pierce says:

      Thanks Danylle. I’m glad you were able to benefit from the program with Audible. I’ll try to find a brewery to talk about GF beer. I also want to talk to some cideries, about cider (also gluten-free).

  2. Mike Harris
    Mike Harris says:

    Hey, great episode! I have a question about the flipside. What about people who want to join a cooperative? What should they look for? For example, there’s a co-op called Broken Clock that’s just starting out and still relatively unheard of. Seems like there’s a ways to go before they’re even distributing their beer. There are other co-ops around the cities that are more established, like Fair State or Bluenose Gopher, though the bar for entry seems to be a bit higher, and there are already quite a lot of members in those, from what I can tell.
    What signs should I look for or questions I should ask to make sure that I’m making a good investment, not necessarily in terms of money, but in doing something genuinely good in the community (and getting a good drink out of it 😉 )?

    • Nathan Pierce
      Nathan Pierce says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mike. Like you said, some people buy shares in a co-op as a financial investment, while others invest money and time in a co-op. With co-ops, it’s all about the community. I’m glad to hear that you genuinely want to do good for the community. If you’re lucky enough to be geographically close enough to several co-op breweries that you could choose which one to join, I suggest showing up to some meetings and seeing how well you get along with the folks. Rap with as many different members as you can and ask them things like their vision for the business, how the business will contribute to the community, and other things that are important to you. I also suggest checking out the blog post, For a brewery truly rooted in the community, consider forming a cooperative. It has some other info on co-ops, and there’s a list of brewery co-ops that we knew of at the time of publication. So you can reach out to those breweries to get a feel for the different visions and vibes at brewery co-ops around the nation.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the worker cooperative model.  It’s worth a listen so I recommend everyone head over to MicroBrewr and check out this episode.  When you’re done you should check out some of the back […]

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