Belfast set to welcome its first craft beer co-operative

Belfast’s first craft beer co-operative, Boundary Brewing, could open its doors in March next year. The co-op’s founding members have launched a share offer to raise the capital...

Belfast’s first craft beer co-operative, Boundary Brewing, could open its doors in March next year. The co-op’s founding members have launched a share offer to raise the capital required to start up the business, and have already raised over £80,000 – £10,000 more than the original £70,000 target.

The story of Boundry Brewing began in 2010, when co-founder Matthew Dick returned from the USA, where he had been living for five years. Having worked at a brewpub there, he was interested in starting a similar project in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t until he met fellow beer lover Matt Scrimgeour, a keen supporter of co-ops, that he found out about the co-operative enterprise model.

Mr Scrimgeour works in the third sector for a peace and reconciliation charity. In 2012 he read about Belfast Cleaning Society, a worker co-operative set up by a group of local women affected by disadvantage and working in unfair conditions or pay. That story captured his imagination and he soon joined the local credit union.

“I believe in trying to find alternative – the idea of doing something together with other people makes sense to me,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do something practical, different from the default capitalist assumption of how enterprises work.”

For them, the co-operative model was the perfect choice to make sure that people had a stake in the business. “A brewery was something to share with people from the beginning,” explained Mr Dick.

Before setting up, they took part in a four-day training course led by Co-operative Alternatives, a worker co-operative in Northern Ireland.

Around 100 members have already joined the co-operative since the share offer was launched on 1 December. Members can invest between £100 and £20,000.

Depending on how much they invest, members will qualify for Ordinary or Supporter membership classes. An ordinary member is anyone who has invested £100-£249. A supporter member is anyone who has invested £250+, or volunteers 40hrs+ per year. Supporter members have more chances to be elected to the board of the co-op, which will include a maximum of five supporter members, three employee members and one ordinary member. They have already had members joining from the USA, Holland, South America and Australia.

“We are a brewery that is run, and owned, by its members. Once the brewery becomes profitable, members can expect to receive a paid dividend, as well as having a say in how their business is run,” added Mr Dick.

Demand for craft beer is strong in Northern Ireland, which has 15 microbreweries at the moment, three times more than ten years ago.

“We are offering the beer-drinking public something new and different – from the bottles to the label design and the beer itself. It will be something Northern Ireland hasn’t seen before,” he said.

The brewery will offer 3 year-round beers; a 3.5% American pale ale, a 7% IPA and a 7% Export Stout. They will also create specialty, seasonal and collaborative beers.

Matthew Dick hopes that Boundary Brewing will become as successful as Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery in the USA.

“We draw our inspiration from the US craft beer revolution and traditional Belgian styles – not the local types of beer the public has been used to.”

The co-op will be based at the Holywood Arches in Belfast and the brewery will hold regular beer tours.

Matthew Dick, who left his fulltime job as a brewer with a brewing technology firm to start the co-op, is currently its only employee. He says the co-op could be hiring more staff once the business is up and running.

They are also in discussion with different charities about providing internships for young people who have dropped out of school. Every year Boundary Brewing will also have a competition where one of the members will win the chance to design the beer.

“We want to involve the community, not just provide a service,” said Matthew Dick.

To find out more about the brewery and the share offer, visit www.boundarybrewing.coop.

In this article


Join the Conversation