2019 Board Election Candidates & Details!

The 2019 Full Barrel board elections are afoot! Voting will take place on the Members Loomio Group, which is open to all paid-in co-op members, and will officially close April 23. Four seats are open, and information about the candidates may be found below. Additionally, the candidates statements at the March 23rd Annual Meeting may be viewed via this link.

Board Candidate Statements:

Brian Guy: I am interested in serving the Full Barrel Co-op membership as a board director for three reasons: my belief in the power of the co-op model, my desire to work on local awesome things, and beer.

First, I have come to understand that the unique nature of co-ops, especially in the US, requires a diligent Board of Directors to ensure that the organization remains faithful to the co-op model’s core values, intentions, and overall potential – economic or otherwise. With that in mind, I think my experience as a Director on the Boards of the Onion River Co-op (aka, City Market) and the Co-op Family Center (a large childcare co-op in Eugene, OR) would be helpful as an FBC director. At both co-ops I was able to take advantage of extensive training in policy governance and see first hand the incredible, positive effects co-ops have on their community. I was also exposed to how often the co-op approach is misunderstood in our market capitalist-dominant world, and the need to clearly describe how much different (read: better) the co-op model can be for supporting sustainable and responsible business ownership. Full Barrel can be another voice in the co-op choir, and maintaining an effective and committed board is one way to make sure our members know what sets us apart. I’d love to offer my time and energy to that end!

Second, as a relatively new Burlingtonian (~6 years), I am constantly surprised by the creative/DIY nature of many local endeavors as well as the depth and consistency of Vermont culture overall. As a volunteer (or member) I’ve been a part of Local Motion, City Market, Radio Bean, and the Intervale Community Farms, to name a few, and with each have made great friends and was able to see firsthand how the best parts of Burlington function. My partner, Erin Malone, and I also own Momo’s Market, and my kids are in the Burlington School District – both of which offer a unique view into other parts of our city. I want to continue to be involved in our community, and I think Full Barrel Co-op has something special to offer in an otherwise crowded beerscape. I think FBC is positioned well, and ready to take the next big step in membership and development, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Lastly, beer. Not a lot to say here. You don’t join a beer co-op started by brewers unless you really like to drink it and enjoy cold afternoons in someone’s driveway watching your future boiling to perfection in a beat-up metal pot. Being around brewers and beer folks of other stripes means access to new flavors and styles and sharing them with others. Not a bad gig if you ask me.

Thanks for considering me for the Board of Directors, looking forward to the annual meeting!

Eric LaMontagne (Current Board Member): Hello friends! First, I’m sorry I could not make it tonight. Unfortunately the meeting overlapped with a commitment that has been scheduled for months, and for which there was no option to reschedule.

I stepped into a board position part way through a term, filling in for a previous member who had to resign for personal reasons. It is not an exaggeration to say that it has been an honor to serve this community. It is a very exciting time to be a member of this cooperative; there is an enormous amount of momentum and being in the midst of it is nothing less than thrilling.

A bit about me: I grew up in the Upper Valley area of Vermont, and moved to the big city of Burlington for school. I never left. Following 7 years in the non-profit development world, a year or some ago I started a company with the goal of helping facilitate strong community partnerships between for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. I am also the Executive Director of Campaign for Vermont, a non-partisan advocacy organization focusing state-wide on their Three E’s of Prosperity - Education, Ethics, and Economics. Though it may have moved by the time you read this, my weekend hustle has been working with the crew at Groennfell Meadery and Havoc Mead in Colchester, both as bartender and a bit on the brewing side. For fun you can usually find me (and most likely my dog Joules) somewhere outside, either fishing, kayaking, hiking, or maybe even just wandering aimlessly and enjoying the sun. A good brew is also likely to be nearby.

If given the opportunity to continue my role on the board, I promise to remain active and engaged. It has been an honor to serve you the members. We have an incredible team here, and I look forward to helping us forge ahead. 

Miles Linsmith (Current Board Member): As one of Full Barrel Cooperatives newest board members, I've really enjoyed collaborating with the board and providing direction and expertise in the beverage industry. I'm excited to see tangible progress and community interest and would like to remain on the board throughout the next phase of planning and development.  Over the next 2 years, I would like to take a more active role in the business planning committee and help the project come to life.

David Smith (Treasurer): See board bio [link] & video of his verbal statement [link] at the Annual Meeting.

Massachusetts Co-op Breweries Road Trip Report!

At the inspiration of Full Barrel board Secretary Kiersten Hallquist, we’ve been aiming to do fun member events each month. So, for November, I decided to organize a road trip to visit the three co-op breweries to our South in Massachusetts: Artisan Beverage Co-op in Greenfield, 3cross Fermentation Co-op in Worcester, and Democracy Brewing in Boston. I was joined on the journey by our Vice President Andrew Gansenberg and Treasurer David Smith, and we rolled out from Burlington for our adventure on the morning of Saturday, November 10.

Artisan Beverage Co-op

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We arrived in Greenfield around noon, and, since our meeting was for 12:30, headed past Artisan Beverage Cooperative (ABC) to stop off at a neighboring brewery that opened at noon. En route, it quickly became apparent that ABC sits in a little cluster of worker co-ops. Within a stone’s throw is PV Squared (a solar installation company), Real Pickles (a fermented foods manufacturer), and an outpost of Equal Exchange, which is the biggest worker co-op in New England.

ABC itself occupies space inside a multi-tenant industrial building run by the local economic development agency, and, after a moment of slightly-confused searching, we found co-founder Garth Shaneyfelt. Garth led us to their tasting room and, after trying a few variations of their Ginger Libation and Kombucha, we settled in to hear their story.

Cheers to ABC!

Cheers to ABC!

ABC emerged initially via the merger of a small kombucha and a mead manufacturer in 2013, and now boasts a workforce of about 12-15, with five of those folks currently member-owners of the worker co-op. New employees must work for two years to qualify for membership, at which point that have the opportunity to purchase a share, which is $15,000.

At the moment, Artisan is primarily focused on distribution; the tap-room is small, but their flagship Ginger Libation can be found across New England, including in Burlington’s own City Market. They’ve just started experimenting with adding beer to their offering mix, and their first stab at it, “Beer #1”, was on tap during our visit. Garth gave us a quick tour of their facilities, and we discussed their thinking about expanding to a larger foot-print, more central location for a taproom in the future.

3Cross Fermentation Co-op

After a lovely ramble through Western Massachusetts that included a lunch stop at Stone Cow Brewing, we rolled into Worcester where we found 3cross in the basement of an old building beneath a glowing sign proclaiming “Games!” After passing through the low fence constructed of shipping pallets that surrounds the parking-lot patio, we found worker-owner Heather Odell chatting with a few regulars, including one of the brewery’s consumer board members.

3cross is unique in the American co-op brewing world as the first with a “multi-stakeholder” ownership structure, which is used by a few grocery co-ops in the US, and is more common in Quebec, where Ma Brasserie in Montreal was the first to utilize the model. Originally founded and owned by its brewer, 3cross’ journey to co-op ownership came in two steps. First, the two other employees joined the founder as members on a worker cooperative basis. Then, a class of consumer members was created, in which any customer can join by purchasing a share for $150, and close to 140 people have done so at the time of writing. The purchase was financed primarily by a “seller’s note” loan made by the founder, who will retain the right to be the board chair until the debt is paid.

The co-op’s bylaws specify that worker-owners always elect one more board seat than consumers, so the co-op currently has a board of 5, consisting of all three workers and two consumer members. Profits are also split between the two groups, with the workers getting their share on the basis of labor contributed, while the consumers get their cut on the basis of dollars spent at the brewery.

In many ways, it sounded like 3cross is able to access the “best of both worlds” of employee and consumer ownership. On the one hand, the worker members have a majority voice in the strategic decision-making and a stake in the financial performance of the business. On the other, consumer members are invited to get involved in a variety of ways beyond electing board members and getting a little money back at the end of the year. The co-op maintains a tap that only members can order from, members vote on what charities the contribute the tip jar to (they are a no-tipping, living-wage establishment), and members can submit beer recipes that, if chosen, they can help brew. The list of member benefits was significant and creative, including a members-only tap, and got our juices flowing as we consider the future of Full Barrel.

Democracy Brewing

After the scrappy, modest scale of the first two stops on our tour, Democracy Brewing was quite a change of pace. Located in the heart of Boston a short walk from the Common, this worker co-op raised over a million dollars in capital for its build-out prior to opening on July 4th, 2018. Employing 30 workers and sporting a 10 barrel brew system with 20 barrel fermenters, Democracy has quickly established itself as a thriving neighborhood establishment.

Arriving at dinner time on a Saturday night, the place was hopping. Co-founder James Rasza got us beers while we waited for a table and visited with a few other local co-op folks who joined us, including Chris Mackin of Ownership Associates and Greg Brodsky of the Independent Brewers Alliance. Once we secured a table and ordered from their solid pub menu, James dove into the story of their development.

It took several years to get from idea to the solid business we encountered that night, and the scale of the project required some fairly sophisticated and innovative approaches to financing. Loans were secured from the three major Community Development Financial Institutions that support co-op development (CFNE, LEAF, and Shared Capital Co-op), and a structure was devised to attract additional risk capital that combined a target dividend rate with a modest revenue share.

Following the heady dinner discussions, James led us below ground, where the brewing and food prep happen. After a tour of the facilities, he discussed the travails of the build-out process and the challenges of working with contractors and sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors. It was clear that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into bringing the happening, convivial space above us into being, and James expressed interest in helping others on the path. Towards that end, Democracy takes a page out of the European co-op movement’s book and commits 5% of its profits towards supporting co-op development. As they grow, James hopes that will fund the ability for him to devote a substantial number of hours to helping other co-ops be established, grow, and thrive.

Comparisons and Take-Aways

In all, the trip was both fun and extremely educational, and a few themes emerged for me.

Employee Ownership: All the co-ops we visited had some level of employee ownership: ABC and Democracy entirely as worker co-ops, and half of 3cross. Being modeled on Austin’s Black Star, Full Barrel is currently a consumer co-op, so these models definitely got me thinking about our structure as we move towards launch. I think there’s a key and powerful element to consumer membership, but the opportunity to share in the success of the business does offer a significant benefit to workers that could translate into more retention, engagement, etc. So, I definitely would like to research how a 3cross-style multi-stakeholder co-op might work under Vermont’s legal framework to determine how a worker class of shares might fit with our model.

Start-up vs. Conversion: Both ABC and 3cross became co-ops as a result of existing businesses converting into co-ops, though in slightly different ways. ABC was something of a merger of equals between existing businesses, while 3cross’ origin was with a single founder deciding to broaden ownership such that he was on both the buy and sell side of the equation.

By contrast, Democracy Brewing was a true start-up. The core of founding worker-owners worked on the idea for years, business planning, building skills, and recruiting capital until they were able to line up all the factors and launch a new establishment from scratch at significant scale.

That difference could really be felt, in that ABC and 3cross definitely still felt scrappy and boot-strapped in many ways, adding capacity as they could, while you could not tell that Democracy felt as though it could have been there a decade or more, despite being less than 6 months old. While that’s not enough time to render any sort of final judgement on the merits of one approach or the other, the ability to come out of the gate seemingly fully capitalized seems to be a contributor to their success.

On this front, Full Barrel has, from time to time, both reached out to and heard from existing brewers on the possibility of acquiring their operations. Those conversations have not gone far enough to be serious, so our co-op’s path is looking more like Democracy’s “raise and build new” approach, albeit on a smaller scale.

Distribution: Of the three breweries, only ABC was primarily oriented towards off-site distribution. As Full Barrel is primarily aiming for on-site distribution, the impact of location was quite apparent in the comparison between 3cross and Democracy Brewing. The former, in an off-the-beaten-path location, was relatively quiet for a later Saturday afternoon with regulars at the bard, while the latter, being in the heart of Boston, was bursting at the seams at dinner-time with a more generalized downtown crowd. My takeaway from this is, as we assess both the viability and strategy for our future location, is that we will need to be clear how much active marketing and organizing we’ll need to do to draw in beer drinkers, versus how much organic foot traffic we can reasonably expect from the environment.

Conclusion:

In all, the trip was a blast, combining good beer and an opportunity to get to know some fellow board members on a deeper level. I’m thinking we’ll follow up this experience in a few monthly by organizing a trip north of the Border to drop in on a few co-op breweries in Quebec. If you’re interested in potentially tagging along, and being part of Full Barrel’s next steps, join up as a member!