A Saskatoon brewery is looking for members and partners

PINTS by Jason Foster

Wanna own a brewery? Well, there’s one for sale for only $150!

Okay, so not a whole brewery. But right now you can purchase a share in Saskatchewan’s first co-op brewery for just $150. Sound like a good deal? I think it definitely is.

Here’s the scoop: A group of about 10 homebrewers were in a pub (big surprise!) a while back, talking about how to step up their hobby. “Opening a U-Brew was the first idea, where members have access to the equipment,” says original member Adam Worobec. “But once we started digging into the legalities of that, it eliminated itself from consideration due to needing a large enough system.”

Rather than give up they decided to go all-in — and Saskatoon’s Temperance Brewing Co-operative Ltd. was born.

The key element in their decision was to create a co-op rather than a traditional brewing corporation. Rarely found in the beer world, co-ops are a form of democratic, collective ownership that spreads both the risk and the decision-making authority. Without getting too technical, Temperance is a consumer co-op, much like Co-op grocery stores.

Your $150 buys you a share in the co-op and gives you a slice of the organization’s ownership. With membership comes some key rights, says Worobec. “Members get a vote, priority access to beer and events, brewery discounts and a say in what beer we brew.”

Just be sure you’re going into it for the right reasons, because you don’t join this co-op to get rich.

“We won’t make a profit in a strict sense,” says Worobec. “We can’t do dividends, [so] profits will be folded back into the company.”

This may sound odd to many, but it’s a standard procedure for co-ops. What it means is that 100 per cent of the focus at Temperance will be on the beer.

The current plan is to fundraise to build a 10 to 20 hectolitre brewhouse, with a full-service taproom, to sell beer around the province. The group plans to leverage initial, voluntary investments from members to accrue enough capital from other sources to open the brewery. In the meantime, they’re looking for a partner which they can contract to brew an initial beer, creating both profile and cash flow.

Building a co-op brewery takes more time than the traditional approach, so at this point they’re hoping for a 2016 opening, says Worobec.

“This year is about the membership drive and a funding drive. Hopefully by next year we’ll be putting the wheels in motion on our own stuff,” he says.

But the upside to the extra wait is that the end result will be a more locally focused brewery. Even the name comes from Saskatoon’s history.

“Saskatoon was originally a temperance colony,” says Worobec. “There’s a long history of the temperance movement around here [and] a lot of the SLGA rules can be traced back to that movement. The name is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.”

Worobec says building a strong connection to the community is a guiding principle for Temperance. “We hope to name our beer after Saskatoon’s neighbourhoods and parts of Saskatchewan,” he says.

Worobec also says those specific names will likely be subject to member vote — another right of membership. The brewery’s name was selected by a ranked ballot of the original members, and future members will be polled on things like what styles to brew, beer names and other aspects of the brewery’s operations.

Due to the technical nature of brewing and the need for someone to actually make the beer, Temperance will hire a brewmaster who’ll have final say on beer-related decisions, although members will be encouraged to submit ideas and offer ongoing feedback.

“We’ll have events where members can bring beer and recipes [and] we’ll have competitions on homebrewed suggestions,” says Worobec, stressing that the brewery will make the beers the members want to drink.

Brewery co-ops are rare in North America. There’s a smattering of small brewery co-ops in the U.S., but the only one currently operating in Canada is La Barberie, a worker-co-op brewpub in Québec City. (Saskatoon’s Great Western is partially worker-owned, but it’s not a full-blown co-operative.)

In many respects Temperance is blazing a trail as Canada’s first full-retail co-op brewery, so it seems fitting they’re located in Saskatchewan, the heartland of Canada’s co-operative movement.

At this stage in their development, Worobec couldn’t offer insights into the styles of beer they’ll brew as the selection process is still a ways down the road.

A 2016 opening may seem a far way off, but you need to remember that the co-op process takes a bit longer as there are more stakeholders with a legitimate voice. Still, Worobec is encouraged by the response so far.

“Membership sales [and other initial targets] are going much faster than we anticipated,” he says.

So here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor and get yourself to the front of the line for tasting co-operatively made craft beer in the near future — and a little piece of it will be all yours!

For more information on Temperance Brewing Co-operative, head to temperancebrewing.ca.