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Kicking the Kickstarter: Aletruism Brewing Non-Profit

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Aletruism Brewing logo

Today is the first in a new semi-regular feature called “Kicking the Kickstarter” and features prospective new brewery brand Aletruism Brewing, a non-profit from the folks behind The Oregon Public House. Kicking the Kickstarter is a feature where we profile a new beer related project that is hoping to raise public funding on the Kickstarter website. We will analyze the offerings and offer our opinions on the worthiness of the cause.

Aletruism Brewing makes a great kickoff because it’s an interesting local cause that wants to open debt-free so that all profits made on beer sales can go directly to charity. This is the same idea behind the creators of Aletruism’s The Oregon Public House in NE Portland. The idea behind Aletruism Brewing is to allow OPH to make even more money for charities by brewing its own beer and being able to sell more of it at both the OPH and outside accounts. Ryan Saari and his founding crew at The Oregon Public House have already been successful and last April of 2014 made a step towards brewing their own when homebrewer friend Dean Ivester began crafting his homebrew recipes into beers for OPH that were contract brewed and scaled up at downtown Portland’s Pints Brewing.

The Oregon Public House launched its Aletruism Brewing kickstarter last Friday with a sharp logo (but perhaps overly similar to Brooklyn Brewery’s), nice video, and well put-together funding page. Still, I had a few burning unanswered questions like:

  • How can The Oregon Public House be the “nation’s first non-profit brew pub” as advertised when it does not have its own brewery and in Portland alone we already have not-for-profit Ex Novo Brewing?

I reached out to chief spokesperson and one of the founders of The Oregon Public House and Aletruism Brewing, Ryan Saari, who said, “ I don’t believe there are any registered nonprofit brewpubs at this time. Some may be not-for-profit, but are still structured as a corporation with an ‘owner.’ We have no owner.” However, from my knowledge of its inner workings, Portland’s own Ex-Novo Brewing is also a non-profit, and according to the company’s President, Joel Gregory, it is also a state recognized non-profit but not federally recognized, the same exact registration as Oregon Public House and what Aletrusim would be. Ex-Novo also opened last year with its own brewery from day one, making Aletruism/OPH not the first non-profit brewpub.

Part two of my first question on how OPH/Aletruism could be called a “brewpub” at all at this point. Ryan Saari explains, the OPH originally applied for an Oregon Liquor Control Commission License under a Brewery or Brewpub license, even though it was not brewing beer of its own. OK, but this may still be an example of a liberal or misleading use of the phrase brewpub that refers to a pub/restaurant with its own in-house brewery, which OPH does not and will likely never have. This also ties into being the first non-profit brewpub, because according to OPH/Aletruism Treasurer Stephen Green, “When we registered with the state of Oregon as a ‘Domestic Nonprofit’ in 2010, there were no non-profit brewpubs functioning in the nation that we could find after doing a good amount of research. There was/is, however, a non-profit brewery called ‘Finnegan’s.'” To my mind, OPH is still not a brewpub no matter what it is filed under because it doesn’t have a brewery. There are many bars that contract their own in-house branded beers, but they don’t get to call themselves brewpubs.

  • Why does the Kickstarter only raise funds for a 20bbl fermenter and 25 kegs when the brewery is also going to need a mash tun, hot liquor tank and much, much, much more equipment?

Because Aletruism Brewing will be partners contract brewing with Zoiglhaus Brewery, a new project being built in the Lents neighborhood by the owners of Pints Brewing. Previously referred to as “Z-haus Brewery,” the infrastructure is based on a shared brewery concept where Aletruism Brewing can be brewed on the Z-Haus brewhouse but fermented in Aletruism fermenters placed in the new brewery. I still think Aletruism will need many more than 25 kegs if it plans to distribute its beers.

  • Is the line of beers by Dean Ivester and Pints Brewing dead, or taking on a new form?

Dean Ivester may or may not still be involved, as Ryan Saari explains. “We remain committed to Dean, he has a day job and a family so we are taking it one step at a time. The ball is really in his court when it comes to being our brewer long term for Aletruism Brewing. In the short term we are lucky to have the partnership with Pints as we move forward.”

Kickstarter Rewards:

So in Aletruism Brewing we have learned both the differences in non-profit and not-for-profit, as well as about a relatively mysterious other new brewery project. But the final question is, are the funding benefits worth it?

The first question I have about any Kickstarter is why I should give my money to this project. Often it’s a for-profit business idea and to me it’s a hard sell for me to fund someone else’s business that I will make nothing on. That question is rendered relatively moot with Aletruism Brewing, as it isn’t for-profit and will only be doing good things with the funds. Why not fund it if you have the money?

As usual, the Kickstarter benefits for Aletruism start off with the obligatory and unnecessary $1 level for a shout-out on social media before graduating into throwaway schwag like coasters for $25 (though they are laser engraved coasters, so that might mean they are pretty nice ones, but no more info is given). From there we get up to pint glasses, scout notebooks, and engraved plaques, with each level adding a new item in addition to the schwag gifts from the lower levels.

Usually with these Kickstarters the best value is with the highest investment, but I think the Aletruism Brewing Kickstarter falls a little short at the upper levels. The 2nd highest level is $1,500 for a private party with 9 friends at the brewery with food and the brewer on hand, as well as pints and stickers. Unless there is an open bar tab, that’s a bit sketchy. The very top is $2,500 investment for the same party, but you also get your name on a beer. I feel I could probably get my name on a beer by doing something  much more foolish than helping fund a good cause like this one, though. I’m surprised there was no offer of free growler fills for a lifetime or brewing your own beer, but if you’re looking for a good cause and you’re a beer lover, you could do a lot worse than Aletruism Brewing.

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Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

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