It happens every time a craft brewer is sold to a macro brewer: Fans groan. Select other brewers grumble. And the beer, no matter how beloved it was just a few weeks before, loses some of its cool factor. That’s, in part, because of the fiercely independent nature of the craft community—drinkers and brewers who feel they’ve helped revolutionize the beer industry in America (and they have). But because the craft beer world is still so immature, many supporters—and brewers—haven’t starting thinking long term yet.
It’s relatively easy to start a brewery these days — certainly much more so than five or 10 years ago. And few craft brewers have reached a level where they’re thinking about what happens to the brewery when they decide to retire. Some have, of course. In 1999, Full Sail Brewing became an employee-owned facility. New Belgium followed suit, moving from 41% employee-owned to 100% in late 2012. And last year, Harpoon Brewery hopped on the employee-owned bandwagon.