Brewery co-op seeks members, investors

The Marquette Brewing Cooperative, which will be one of the first community-owned microbreweries in Michigan and the United States, is seeking members and investors for upcoming construction costs at its 501 S. Lake St. location. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a craft brewery, well, you’re in luck.

For a one-time fee of $99, anyone can become an owner of the Marquette Brewing Cooperative, one of the first community-owned microbreweries in Michigan and the United States.

The Marquette Brewing Cooperative will be an artisan microbrewery and taproom that’s open to the public, serving everything from lager and sour brews to stouts and pale ales.

In 2012, David Gill started the Marquette Home Brewers Club — the group that puts on Spring Ferment Festival — as a means to bring people together who shared a passion for brewing beer, offering them a way to learn more about their craft while establishing a camaraderie of fellow beer lovers.

Over the last several years, club members dreamed of opening their own brewery. Now, that dream is in its beginning phases of becoming a reality.

Kicking off with a banquet Saturday afternoon at the future brewery site along Lake Street in Marquette, the public had an opportunity to tour the building, meet the board of directors, ask questions and enjoy soft pretzels from Dah Pretzel Guys, handmade chocolates from Davin’s Chocolates and a variety of beers crafted by club members.

The event was also a chance for the public to become members of the cooperative, and for members to become investors in the brewery.

To get the ball rolling on fixing up the brewery’s building, it will cost around $150,000 to $200,000, Gill said. So far, the plan is to update the walls and ceilings, redo the floors and bathrooms, add a roof-top patio overlooking Lake Superior, purchase a two- or four-barrel brewing system, and more.

“Part of the reason we wanted to do this is because in our local craft brewing club there’s a lot of brewers who have really taken the game to the next level and learned how to brew really well,” Gill said. “It’s just a unique idea of how we’re going to approach brewing with a team of brewers instead of having just one head brewer. We wanted to share the variety, the quality and creativity of all we’ve been producing, and literally build a brewery of a team of brewers that have been learning together.”

So, what’s the next step? Funding the project.

“If you’re an owner, you have the choice to become an investor,” Gill said. “Becoming an investor is buying preferred shares, which is a financial investment in the brewery where you’re basically lending us money and we pay you back with interest later.”

The co-op currently has around 200 members but they hope to welcome more.

“We’d love to get up to 500 members before we open the door,” Gill said, adding that they hope to open in December. However, depending on how funding goes, the brewery might not be opened until spring or summer next year.

David’s wife, Michelle, said the biggest challenge has been explaining to people what a co-op truly means.

“When you’re a member, you’re an owner,” she said, adding that owners receive discounted prices on beer, voting rights and more.

If regular members choose to invest in preferred membership shares, they can earn up to a 5 percent annual return on their investment. Preferred membership does not impart any additional control over regular membership. Every regular member gets one vote, regardless of whether they invest in preferred membership.

A brewer membership is also available. This particular membership allows people to learn how to brew by first learning the craft under supervision and ultimately brewing beer to serve on the menu.

The Marquette Brewing Cooperative is located at 501 S. Lake St. For more information about becoming an owner or investor, visit www.marquettebrewing.coop.