Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery is moving closer to opening up what would be just the second co-op brewery in the country. The brewery reached the 700 member mark just last week, and they are currently in the middle of an investment campaign with the goal of raising $300,000 that will be used to lease a brewery space and purchase equipment. You can find out more about the investment campaign & becoming a member of Flying Bike on their website.
Opening up a brewery is a long process in any scenario, and trying to make the co-op model work is certainly no exception. While they have surely raised a good chunk of change through membership fees, it is rare for co-ops to obtain enough start-up funds from membership fees alone. That is one reason why they are offering preferred shares to members as part of their investment campaign in order to raise the necessary capital to get things rolling soon. Planning for Flying Bike began in 2010, so this is year four of working to make the brewery a reality.
I think the co-op model would certainly be an interesting business model for a small brewery, and I want to see Flying Bike succeed. It sounds to me like their taproom would almost be a clubhouse of sorts, where members get together not just to drink, but to help drive the decisions and direction of the brewery. Part of what is fun about the co-op model is that members get to help decide what beers to brew. They have a new collaboration beer brewed by Stoup Brewing coming out in early May, and this will be the fourth collaboration beer they have done with a professional brewery. Here is more info on that process from Kevin Badger, who is on the Flying Bike Board of Directors:
Flying Bike’s core tagline is “Member Driven Beer”. Since its inception, we’ve held member homebrew competitions to determine beer recipes for the co-op. Once we open for business, these beers will become our foundation brews (hopefully available year round). Our newest beer, the Bike Rye’d Saison, is a rye saison brewed by member Dan Schmidt for our Homebrew Open competiton last December. This was our first “open-style” competition, as past events have been style-based. Our friends at Conduit Coffee opened their space for us on Westlake Ave to hold the competition. Any Flying Bike member could enter any homebrew of their choosing. Members and friends were invited to the event to sample the brews and rate their Top 5. The votes were tallied, and the members’ choice proclaimed the winner! Our winning homebrewer, Dan, had brewed this recipe 15 times before this competition. He had worked hard at his craft and it showed!
With all of our winning beers thus far we try to collaborate with a local brewery to brew it full-scale for limited keg distribution. The homebrewer gets to be a part of the scaled recipe decisions and helps out on brew day. Past collaborations include:
- Fly-PA (IPA competition) with Three Skulls Ales
- 7 Spoke Stout (Stout competition) with Northwest Brewing Company
- Airship Ale (Pale Ale competition) with Machine House Brewery
This time around we have partnered with Stoup Brewing for the Bike Rye’d Saison. One of our board members pours beer at the brewery and approached them with the opportunity last month. Since then, Dan and Stoup’s head brewer, Brad, have been finalizing details of the brew. The brew date is set for mid-April which should put the beer on tap just in time for Seattle Beer Week! Over the years we have built up a list of bars, pubs, and breweries who are interested in carrying our collaboration beers. These come from member connections in their neighborhoods (their “regular places”) as well as businesses who are really interested in and supportive of what we are doing. So, the beer will be on tap at Stoup as well as around the city. We’ll host a Flying Bike member Bike Rye’d Saison release party in early May at one of the first places to put it on tap.
If this sort of community interests you, and I imagine it would many homebrewers, you should check out their website for more information on becoming a member. For the rest of us, I hope to be able to walk into their taproom in a year or two and see what they’ve come up with.