Burlington Beer Works co-op a step closer to reality

It’s been a year since a group of entrepreneurs and business owners pitched the idea of a cooperative brewery and restaurant in downtown Burlington. Now, with 600 owners who’ve backed the idea financially, the Burlington Beer Works is one step closer to opening.

The Burlington Beer Works, which, when completed, would be one of the very few cooperatively owned breweries and eateries in the nation, is in the preliminary stages of finding a location downtown, according to members of its Board of Directors.
“We told owners when we reached 500 we could start the building search phase,” Burlington Beer Works President Ian Baltutis said. “We are still working on 1,000 owners before we open.”
It’s $100 to become a lifelong owner of the project, and the board would like to see 2,000 owners before the brewery is up and running. That lets financial institutions know that a number of people in the community support the idea, and it means customers when the brewery opens.
“It is really a project focused on revitalizing downtown Burlington,” Baltutis said. “There is this idea that downtown needs two big anchor businesses to drive business downtown. The Company Shops has been a great model.”
To have 600 owners within a year is astonishing, said Eric Henry, a Company Shops founding member who also serves on the Beer Works Board of Directors. The Company Shops Market Co-op was able to open after four years, and Henry said Beer Works could be open within two years.
“So that is very fast, and there is no question we could really be open within two years,” he said. “That would be unbelievable.”
This type of establishment in downtown Burlington would serve as a draw to the area, in particular, for young professionals, said Peter Ustach, a Beer Works Board of Directors member who owns Pandora’s Pies and The Fat Frogg in Elon.
Using the phrase “Truly local beer from recipe to pint,” the board is tapping into the home brewing community by offering the opportunity for home brewers’ recipes to be brewed by the brewery’s master brewer, and served.
“It doesn’t happen unless you support it,” Henry said. “If it is something you want to see, buy a $100 membership ownership share.”
The group has monthly ownership meetings that also serve as a way for potential owners to learn about the organization and plans. They also participate in various beer-related events, including the Fourth Friday events in downtown Burlington.
For more information or to become a member, visit www.burlingtonbeerworks.coop or find Burlington Beer Works on Facebook.
WHAT: Burlington Beer Works, a co-op brewery and restaurant.
WHERE: Somewhere in downtown Burlington.
COST: $100 membership for life.
STIPULATIONS: Must be 18 years old and a North Carolina resident.
For more information, visit www.burlingtonbeerworks.coop.

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