Monday, October 24, 2011

Bellingham Beer Lab

What do beer aficionados do when they have become competent home brewers yet cannot afford to construct their own microbreweries? Illicit and home brewing is popular in North America, but there are few avenues for those who want produce beer on a commercial scale and turn their hobby into a career. My good friend, Josh, is one of five brewers behind the Bellingham Beer Lab, a cooperative brewery that will soon be opening just south of the border. 

At this point in time, Black Star Co-op is the only cooperative brewery in North America. Located in Austin, Black Star is a microbrewery and brewpub that meets operating costs through the sale of memberships. Members  pay a one-time or payment-plan annual fee that entitles them to discounts on beer, voting power for the Board of Directors, free birthday beers, and invitations to exclusive members events. Black Star generates day-to-day funds through their bar, by offering growlers for take-away, distributing kegs to local businesses, and selling merchandise. The Bellingham Beer Lab is using a similar business model to Black Star in that their initial memberships cost $150.00 USD and liquidity is maintained through the brewpub. In short, as a member of the cooperative you are a part owner of the business.

The benefits of this business type extend beyond the creation of local entrepreneurial opportunities and the provision of diverse beverage options. This collective structure promotes development and growth in each brewer, as the co-op is viewed as a transitional enterprise to assist brewers in achieving their goal of opening their own, independent breweries. After one brewer moves out, another moves in. This concept of production is also linked to civic pride and community building. Each brewer within the cooperative will have numerous ties to the neighbourhood and region, and will attract a unique client base. Most cooperative business models, including the BBL, make an effort to incorporate local resources. Some BBL brewers, for example, will make an effort to use Washington State hops and domestic barley. The beer produced by the BBL will, therefore, reflect the people, produce, and pride of Bellingham.

Another great thing about this particular will be located just 45 minutes south of Vancouver. You can become a member, shoot across the border, fill up some growlers, and be back in Vancouver for dinner with your fresh, microbrewed beer. Keep up-to-date with how the business is progressing on Facebook. Just search "Bellingham Beer Lab".

Josh (Right) and the BBL Boys at the 'Best of the Bay' Brew Competition

"Alex Dawkins Vancouver", "Bellingham Beer Lab", "Vancouver Beer"