Brewing Up Community: Exploring the Potential of Cooperative Breweries for Community Development
This report considers a simple question: Can a cooperatively-owned brewery help build local social infrastructure and contribute to economic resiliency? As microbreweries continue to grow in popularity and take an increasing total market share of the beer industry in the U.S., more communities are seeking to attract this amenity, not just for the economic boost, but because breweries serve as symbols for vital communities both large and small. Rural communities enjoy substantial benefits from breweries, which provide a basis for tourism and a desirable amenity that helps to attract potential residents. The cooperative model offers the potential for more rural communities to have a brewery and for local breweries to share wealth, become invested, expand their economic resiliency. Cooperative breweries are community-based and social enterprises. This report investigates two cooperative breweries and in doing so, explores the motivations for choosing the cooperative model, the process and challenges of forming a cooperative brewery, and the intended and perceived effects of their formation for the members and communities in which they serve. Using Flora and Flora’s theory of entrepreneurial social infrastructure, I make sense of the preconditions, challenges, and consequent social benefits of this model in their successful development. The goal of this report is to provide insight for other community developers, local officials, and residents who want to consider whether this model is a good fit for their own town.