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Cooperative brewery gets loan for construction

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Valley Journal 

RONAN – A brewery being developed by volunteers to bring the community together is one step closer to opening for regular business.

On Friday, Ronan Cooperative Brewery developers held a homebrew tasting and fundraiser event. It wasn’t a brew created at the shop, just yet. They aren’t quit ready to start fermenting hops. 

Jesse Gray, one of nine board members, explained that volunteers invited crafters to bring in their creations to share free samples, and folks attending the event could also purchase a commemorative cup and other items. 

“We wanted to have this event to show people that we are making progress,” Gray said. “We’ve had a lot of questions about when we will open.”

Gray said the brewery could open as early as this spring once construction is finished, which is scheduled to start later this fall. They received a $150,000 loan to get started on the work. 

Jennene Buhr, secretary and board member, said the grassroots fundraising campaign to get members into the co-op was a rewarding challenge. She said traditional funding outlets weren’t available for the start up. A group called Shared Capital Cooperative out of Minneapolis was willing to give them a loan.

“They are also a co-op, and they help other co-ops through membership,” she said. “The interest paid on loans to Shared Capital is used to help finance other co-ops.”

A matching grant from the Department of Agriculture for $50,000 was used to buy equipment that included stainless steel kettles. The equipment is in storage until the construction work is finished.

The co-op got started in the spring of 2017, and people were invited to purchase shares at $250 to become members to help support the development of the project, and, so far, 319 people have joined. The co-op is still welcoming new members. Start-up funds were used to purchase the back section of the brewery building on Main Street, near the movie theater. 

Gray used his graphic design and photography skills to develop images of what the building could look like once the signs go up on the outside of the building. One model suggests the name etched in black letters across the top of the building. The name could also include signage saying, “Montana’s first cooperative brewery.” 

“We are also trying to figure out the lighting on the outside,” Gray said. 


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