Australia gets its first brewery co-op

Sydney-based Hopsters Brewery Co-op is calling for investment to build a microbrewery and taproom.

Since 2016, a small group of volunteers have been working towards opening the doors to Australia’s first co-op brewery in Enmore.

The group today signed a preliminary lease covering the heads of agreement as a precursor to getting Council approval for the venture.

Board member Mitch Hobbs said he doesn’t anticipate any further Council checkpoints and is confident that the official lease will be signed in three weeks.

“Under the current zoning, the Enmore site is approved for a microbrewery and bar, and we’ve checked with the Council that the lease is permissible,” Hobbs said.

“Three weeks from today, the official lease will be signed.”

The Co-op is aiming to raise up to $250,000 for fit out and start up costs at the Enmore site in Sydney’s inner west, which has become something of a craft-beer mecca.

Over the past six months, the co-op has been primarily brewing small batches out of its 200-litre brewhouse.

It has also been contract brewing on a bigger scale out of St Peter’s Brewery and Dad and Dave’s brewery, where the co-op brewed its one commercial batch, a pale ale.

The co-op’s eventual aim is to produce enough beer on its own small system for the bar, and then brew for wholesale and member distribution by continuing to contract brew.

While relying on others for brewing capacity can be risky, Hobbs said that he’s confident there are enough small brewers out there to support the co-op’s needs.

“We’ve got a pretty good relationship with the varying breweries, and the industry is growing so much that there’s always going to be a small brewer in need.”

“We do aim to be completely self-reliant in the future.”

“Our plan is to have potentially multiple locations instead of one big factory.”

“We’re not trying to compete with the amazing breweries already established, our aim is to supply our members first before the general public, because members have that sense of ownership and sense of loyalty, that no other brewery has really.”

Hobbs said that as of the time of writing, the co-op has reached 185 lifetime members. Hopsters is defined as a distributingCo-op, where profits are shared with its members.

A lifetime Hopsters membership starts at $250 or five $50 shares. Members can opt to invest further by purchasing a $1,000 bundle or 20 $50 shares. The preferred minimum investment is $2,000. Members may only invest up to $15,000 to keep within the rules of the co-operative.

There are eight board members who are guiding the process, and the group are looking to recruit one more.

“It’s a foundational board that was recruited one by one, after they proved their interest and how much time they were willing to commit to the co-op.”

“It’s more about what skill set you bring to the table than how much money you invest.”

“We have an incredibly varied skill set on the board, which is what we need to make this happen.”

“We’re not bringing the right knowledge if everyone is just an investor.”

The board members then head up varying committees, depending on their expertise.

“We’ve got 40 or 50 people with an amazingly wide array of skills and backgrounds devoting their time and effort to make this happen.”

“It’s because people feel that sense of ownership, that they’re willing to spend time.”

“It’s been an amazing journey, a lot of people have made sacrifices.”

Hopsters is located at 198 Enmore Rd, Enmore, just up from the Enmore theatre and halfway between The Grifter Brewing Co.and Young Henrys. It is hoping to open by the end of the year.

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