Switchback Brewing Co.
There’s some good news in craft beer coming from the Green Mountain state! Switchback Brewing Company, the producer of Vermont’s top selling craft beer, has just sold. While it seems like this sort of news is most often followed up with…sold to MillerCoors or AB-InBev, this sale is just a bit sweeter. That’s because owner Bill Cherry announced at their company meeting on Monday that the 30 employees were all now owners of the brewery.
Switchback was started in 2002 and is known for their unfiltered, naturally conditioned, flagship amber ale, Switchback Ale 5%ABV. Naturally conditioned means that the beers are carbonated during the fermentation by the yeast. This lends a complex flavor to their beers that fans love from across five states. All of their beers are naturally carbonated in this fashion and include a wide range of styles from Marzen, to extra pale ale, to porter.
Looking at the comments on their FB page, you can almost hear the sighs of relief from their faithful fans:
Why Sell To Employees?
When asked why he decided to sell to his employees, Cherry said this to WCAX-TV, “I wanted Switchback to be Vermont-owned forever. Entrusting the brewery to the employees ensures the company will carry on with its mission to provide great beer and great jobs to the local community. It’s theirs to grow and nurture and reap the benefits. It is the right thing to do and I hope all Vermonters show their support by keeping Switchback beers on their go-to list.”
This story warms our beer-soaked hearts and really gets to what being a craft brewery is all about. Many brewers/owners look for ways to ensure their companies’ futures while also looking for avenues to grow. Cherry was looking down the road to retirement and realized that he wanted the beer to remain the same while also spreading out his responsibilities in the present. “In my heart of hearts, really wanted to have this brewery stay Vermont-owned and locally controlled forever,” Cherry said. “They’re going to keep the legacy going.”
One interesting thing about this deal is that the employees aren’t paying anything upfront. Instead, they receive Switchback stock and the beer profits pay off their debt over the next 15 years. So while these employees aren’t going to be reaping big money from their ownership anytime soon, they now get something that is even possibly more important. They get a say in their livelihood and have a voice in the future of the company. This sort of employee buy-in is such a benefit to companies because it encourages an ownership mindset which helps team members contribute to the long-term success of a company.
Plant Engineer, Gretchen Langfeldt is excited about her new status at Switchback, “It’s fun to say we’re all part if it now together,” she told WCAX-TV with a smile.
With this bold move, Switchback becomes the first employee-owned brewery in Vermont. It now joins the ranks of other employee-owned breweries like Harpoon, New Belgium, Deschutes, Odell and Left Hand Brewing Co. Not a bad crowd to be associated with…
So let’s raise a glass to the employees of Switchback Brewing Co. and their newfound ownership and here’s hoping we can get some of their unique and delicious beers out our way soon!