Could this Unique Business Model be the Future?

The spirit of collaboration and helping others in the craft beer industry has been around for as long as the industry.

In Oklahoma City, a unique business model is forming, one of co-op breweries working under one roof to build up each other. Some are homebrewers just becoming professional and some are in the midst of renovating and expanding on what they have already started.

For Ross Harper, he is the founder of Angry Scotsman Brewing, which plans to open his own brick and mortar building in 2018, but has joined Brad Stumph, formerly of Black Mesa, to be a part of OKCity Brewing, a co-op of breweries that will all use the same equipment and taproom while working on their own business plans.

Tulsa’s Kolibri Ale Works, Angry Scotsman and Vanessa House will use the facility along with current occupant Elk Valley Brewing. Elk Vally shared the facility with the former Mustang Brewing Co., but is working on a new brewery in the Oklahoma City area as well.

Harper agreed on calling the co-op a “brewery incubator”.

“When you look at traditional business incubators for tech startups, it’s a place where new companies can hone their skill, gain experience, and get first products to market,” he explained. “The brewing co-op does the same thing for Angry Scotsman. We can get our flagship beers to market without having to wait for our own build out and permitting to complete, gaining brand recognition and draft accounts. At the same time, we can gain experience on commercial systems with the guidance of more seasoned brewers.”

A taproom will host soft launches for each brewery member starting later this week with a formal opening slated for November 3.

In addition to the taproom is a canning line, as well as traditional keg packaging.

“As you may imagine, storing can blanks for 4-6 SKUs per brewery can take up a lot of space — not to mention the kegs — so we are trying to coordinate amongst ourselves,” Harper said “With the recent changes to state law just a year ago, we will be able to sell packaged beers which is a huge improvement.”

The co-op brewhouse is a 15-barrel direct fire system, with 15-bbl unitanks and brites, along with a few 30-bbl unitanks. Harper said since Elk Valley has previous experience brewing on the system they will take the lead on day-to-day operations and coordinate schedules along with supervising other breweries’ activities.

“A cooperative brewery is only as clean and sanitary as the dirtiest brewer,” Harper pointed out. “Having an experienced brewer like John Elkins oversee operations mitigates this risk.”

Harper also said the craft beer scene in Oklahoma is particularly collaborative anyway, but working so closely with “competition” is fantastic.

“After 12 years of homebrewing, we’re learning a lot about the professional side of operations,” Harper said. “It’s a steep learning curve, but the value of the co-op is both education and market presence/growth.

“When our own brewery is ready to commence operations, we’ll have an established customer base, brand recognition, and professional brewing experience.”

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