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Ronan Cooperative Brewery expands offerings

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RONAN —In the face challenging financial times, the Ronan Co-op Brewery is rolling up its sleeves and choosing to tackle their problem by offering even more to the community. 

After powering through their first year of operation during the pandemic, the Co-op is facing some financial trouble. Not a straight for-profit business model, and with costs for everything going up as the supply chain continues to struggle, they’ve had to find ways to trim costs. However, they aren’t sacrificing their involvement with the community in order to do so. 

“We’re trying to get as creative as possible with more events, and partnering with businesses,” taproom manager Eric Brunet said. “That’s part of the nature of a cooperative, feeding back into the community.”

Beyond their “Local Food Fridays” that feature and promote different local eateries each week for mutual profit, the brewery is finding small ways to support their neighbors in their everyday lives. A recent addition to the taproom has been the “Pay it Forward” board. Whenever a patron is closing out their tab, they have the option to add on a beer for a specific person or group of people, such as firefighters and teachers, who will then receive that beer for free the next time they’re in. 

Local artists can find support within the brewery’s walls as well. Already known for featuring an artist of the month, the Co-op doesn’t charge a commission when they sell an artist’s work. On March 24 they’ll be launching their very first Camera Club, which will see a wall of the brewery designated for people to come in and give the stories of their favorite local photos. Brunet is sure more displays will springboard off that. “I’m always on the lookout for local artists,” he commented. 

Events such as their “Celebrity Pourer” series has been a big hit as well, and immensely helpful to the brewery. In order to become a celebrity pourer, brewery members simply have to pass a certification online, then reach out to Brunet to pick a day to sling beer for their friends and community members. The voluntary work has been a big help with brewery costs, Brunet explained, as paid workers at the brewery have scaled back their hours significantly. While legally volunteers can’t receive tips, the brewery has a couple ideas for the tips received those days: pool the funds to throw a party for their celebrity pourers, or pick a local charity each month to send a donation to.

The next celebrity pourer event will be April 2 with the Missoula Women’s Hockey League. Two of the players will be behind the counter, serving up beer to a room full of their teammates. 

On the first of April, the brewery will partner with the Ronan Volunteer Fire Department. The firefighters will set up smokers along the sidewalk outside the Co-op and sell briskets and other dishes. Half of the proceeds the brewery brings in that day will go straight to the VFD. This will be the brewery’s first partnership of this type, and something they’re excited to do again monthly with different organizations, from police to schoolteachers. 

Thanks to a “Hoptimized” grant gained by Mission West Marketing, an orgnization that works with cooperatives specifically, the Co-op has increased its marketing reach on social media and online. They now send out weekly emails to almost 500 members, spreading the word of all the events they’re holding as they come. From Paint and Sip days to Philosophy on Tap, the Co-op is doing their best to offer something for everyone. With all of their efforts, the staff is hopeful about the future of the brewery.

“Word of mouth is important, especially in a small town,” Brunet added. “It’s a cooperative. We’re only going to survive if everyone in the cooperative participates.”

To those who aren’t members but still would like to help the Co-op succeed, there is a way they can help: “Basically, people just need to come in here and buy beer,” Brunet laughed. “It’s that simple.” 

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