Peddling Together – Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery Eclipses 300 Members

SEATTLE, WA - The “Thirsty Three Hundred” sounds more like a group of Spartans out for Persian blood than a few craft beers fans with dreams of owning a brewery.

The first brewery cooperative in Washington State and only the second in the nation has launched in Seattle. Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery began its membership drive last Monday and broke the 300 barrier before most members were able to have their first beer on Friday evening.

“We expected it to be a slow trickle out of the faucet,” said President Jeff Hicks “We thought we would be hanging out until June and we almost reached 300 in four days.”

Hicks, an avid home-brewer who originally came across the idea of a cooperative brewery while researching the details of opening a nano-brewery, put together an incentive program for the first 300 members to get on board with Flying Bike.

“We want to get as many members on board as possible by our planned opening date in late 2012,” said Hicks. “Anyone who joins before we pour our first pint will be a founding member, which entitles them to special perks and privileges. Our earliest adopters, the ‘Thirsty 300,’ will be forever recognized for their leadership.”

Nicholas Welter, a native of Woodinville was the 301st person to signup.

“I think it is awesome that a place like Seattle, which already has such a great brewing culture, has the opportunity to participate in something as unique and innovative like a brewing co-op,” said Welter. “I plan on utilizing this as an opportunity to get involved as not only a member but also craft beer enthusiast.”

Hicks recalls running across the first brewpub cooperative, Texas-based Black Star Co-op, in his research for opening a brewery. He got a great deal of information from their Founder, Steven Yarak.

“They were in the last stages of their funding but I thought it was an interesting idea,” said Hicks.

After garnering interest from craft beer fans and those in the homebrewing community, Hicks began planning for Flying Bike. He established a steering committee that met every Saturday for ten months in order to prepare for the launch of their membership drive.

“It has been an incredible amount of work and people have come and gone,” said Hicks. “We have some people that have been in it since the beginning and we have had a couple really great people come on board and helped to drive the project forward.”

Flying Bike will continue to accept memberships, which cost $150, before they open the next phase of fundraising – a membership investment program. Hicks will need upwards of one-million dollars for the build-out and all the necessary brewing equipment.

“Our goal is to reach 650 members before we launch our member loan drive, where members who want to provide greater financial support to the cooperative can invest and receive a fixed rate of return, said Hicks”

While non-members will be able to enjoy a beer at the pub, members will enjoy a patronage-refund program and have the ability to enter home-brewed beers as part of a seasonal release competition that will occur once a quarter.

In addition to competitions, Hicks plans to institute an education program for those looking to learn more about the brewing process.

“One of our cooperative principles is education,” said Hicks. “We have a huge responsibility to offer educational opportunities so we will be doing homebrew classes – pretty much anything you can think of we are planning on doing it.”

Flying bike will offer six regular taps, three seasonal “member” selections and numerous other local tap and bottle offerings at the brewpub but Hicks hopes to also distribute Flying Bike beer locally.