Oktoberfest at Black Star Co-op

Push them legs into them 'hosen and put your pretzel chompers in—it's time for Oktoberfest! Black Star Co-op is going all out for this year's bier festival with enough beer and food to satisfy an Übermensch!

From the 17th through the 3rd (October) we'll be serving the best wurst specials in town. Ready your gullet for Currywurst & Bratwurst specials throughout the length of the fest. But it doesn't stop there—we'll be breaking down a whole pig! That means porcine dishes o'plenty for the last week of Oktoberfest. 

But what's this Oktober-thing really about, y'all? We're gonna have so many good beers on tap for Oktoberfest, we're liable to make all those kids in Munich jealous. We've got beers from legendary breweries, beer stein giveaways, and a Kölsch of our very own—Gemütlichkeitbier! Here's the full list of beer events: 

OKTOBERFEST '16: Southern Star Oktoberfest
Wednesday, September 21

OKTOBERFEST '16: Save the World Brewing Co. Celestis Thesauri
Thursday, September 22

OKTOBERFEST '16: Weltenberger Klausterbraurei Stein Night
Saturday, September 24

OKTOBERFEST '16: Left Hand Brewing Company Stein Night
Wednesday, September 28

Coming Not So Soon, Barrel Aging at Black Star

As many of you know, we just released Aberrant No. 4 in the pub last month. What many of you may NOT know is that was the last bit of the original base beer that was soured in our used bourbon barrels. The base beer that was originally put in the barrels was a malty, slightly smoky beer that was then inoculated with a few different souring bacteria and wild yeasts in each barrel. Over the course of the next two-and-a-half years we released individual and blended barrels based the development. We topped off one of the 4 barrels with Dockhand base when Aberrant No. 3 was released, but the other 3 were empty and we needed to devise a plan for refilling them. We knew we had to make something special since the beer would be in the barrels for at least 1-2 years. We set out to develop a recipe that used aspects from certain barrel-aged sour beers and compiled the techniques together to create a truly unique project for Black Star. 

Initially, we were intrigued by the idea of producing a Lambic—but the procedure is not particularly feasible here at Black Star. It was possible, however, to create a base beer that was very similar to a Lambic. So we took some raw wheat from Blacklands Malt in Leander and performed a modified Turbid mash where we essentially had multiple temperature rests during the mash process in order to convert the starches in the unmodified grain into sugars. Next, we asked our friends over at Jester King if they had some aged hops to spare, and not only did they have the hops, but they had a freshly emptied barrel that they said we could have. Score! So we boiled our wort for 3 solid hours with three-year-old hops to create the wort. Since open air spontaneous fermentation was not an option, we did a primary fermentation in a stainless steel vessel using our house strain of yeast. Finally, we moved the partially fermented beer into the open barrels that were already inoculated with souring bacteria and yeasts allowing them to consume the available sugars and begin to produce acids and other flavor byproducts.

All in all, this has been a very rewarding project that has lead us to try a few things that we have never done here before. A huge thank you goes out to the folks at Jester King for being so supportive and generous when asking for help on this beer. 

So what's next? Well, we plan on letting these barrels hang out as long as they need to develop and when the time comes we will taste/blend and then release the beer in a very special way. Stay tuned for more details!

Cheers!

Your Co-op Supports Central Texas Food Bank

Each year our member-owners select organizations for the Co-op to support. In June the Co-op supported Central Texas Food Bank in June by donating $1 from each pint of High Esteem sold during the week of June 13th-19th—almost 400 pints! We thank you for coming out to support Central Texas Food Bank. 

If you weren’t able to make it out to drink a High Esteem in June, there are still other ways to get involved with Central Texas Food Bank and your Co-op. You can join fellow member-owners on July 23rd from noon-3pm for a member volunteer opportunity at the Food Bank’s new location. We also invite you to make a donation via our fundraising page

Central Texas Food Bank (formerly Capital Area Food Bank) brings 26 million meals to our community each year by 1. sharing free food and knowledge on low-cost, healthy eating with families in need; 2. making it easy for families to participate in federal assistance programs; and 3. making food affordable for charitable and government partners. We're choosing to support Central Texas Food Bank in summer when children in our community do not have access to free and reduced-price school lunches. 

Serve Your Co-op, Run for the Board of Directors

Have you ever wanted to take that next step and become more involved in our co-op? Have you been wanting a reason to spend more time with Member-Owners drinking beer while also helping to make our co-op great? If so, we have two upcoming opportunities to do just that.

Opportunity #1: The Annual Report Review Committee. Every year, we ask Member-Owners like you to participate in the Annual Report Review Committee. It's this committee's job to report on the quality of the annual report to the member-owners at the Assembly Meeting in October.  They will meet a couple of times with Directors and other Member-Owners, review the 2015 annual report before it is presented to the membership, and analyze the degree to which the report fits the guidelines established by the State of Texas. 

If you are interested in serving your co-op by participating in this committee, please contact Charles Hueter at charles.hueter@blackstar.coop

Opportunity #2: Running for the Board. Running for the Board is an opportunity to bring your enthusiasm, ideas, and leadership to the Black Star Co-op. As a democratically-governed cooperative, electing our own Board of Directors is one of the benefits of being a Member-Owner. If you would like to help the co-op by crafting policies and principles, representing the best interests of the Member-Owners, and collaborating with the Workers' Assembly, then we highly encourage you to run for one of the three open Board positions this year. No prior experience is required.

To run for the Board, you must first be a fully invested Member-Owner. If you haven't yet paid your balance, you can do so online or at the co-op. Second, please download the Election Packet here. It contains information about the election, important dates, candidate questions for the website, and the Declaration of Candidacy that you'll need to sign and return to the Co-op. Finally, you will need to have attended at least one Black Star Board Meeting within the last year as well as a Candidate Orientation. 

There are two board meetings left before the election, which start at noon. However, we will meet at 11:30 AM at the co-op for the candidate orientation before walking next door to the Board Meeting.

Sun, Jul 24 11:30 AM to 3 PM

Sun, Sept 18 11:30 AM to 3 PM

If you are interested in or have any questions about running for the Board of Directors, please contact the leadership development committee at ldc@blackstar.coop.

Finding Closure: Where Your Favorite Departed Menu Items are Now!

Menus change. At Black Star Co-op they change with the season. Some dishes last; perennial darlings that are always available to their doting fans. Some dishes do not last, living behind both the menu and a troop of hungry, adoring groupies. We know how hard it can be to part with something loved (really, we know, we got your emails, all of them), so this is an attempt to provide some closure. Here’s what your favorite dishes have been doing since their departure:

Shrimp & Grits

S&G’s stint in Austin was always meant to be to be temporary. Spend a couple exciting years in the city, and then retire to the comfortable, provincial pleasures of the gulf. There’s just not enough salt in Austin: on the wind, in the water, hugging the soles of your feet. S&G is currently drinking up some rays and some cheap beer in Port Aransas, for now and the foreseeable future.

Fried Portobello & Chips

Oh, FB&C where did you go? Seattle. It went to Seattle. Taking sides in the “most vegetarian-friendly city” debate, FB&C moved north in search of frozen foodies, the type that might appreciate the capacity of a 1,000+ cal fried dinner to warm the bloodstream. So don’t fret, FB&C is still happily sating the bearded and the artistic, just somewhere a little bit nippy-er.

Pork Shoulder & Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Remember this cat? I don’t. It’s a dish that predates my involvement at Black Star Co-op by a couple years. I’m only really aware of the delicious looking plate because a photo of it was used repeatedly by the Chronicle in articles mentioning us for far too long. So yeah, I’m not sure where this dish is, but I would love to know. If you have any information about its whereabouts, please contact me.

Grilled Cheese

The grilled cheese is still on the menu, you fiends! Yes, it’s not available on the dinner menu, but that’s not so bad is it? Think about all the other people who’s favorite dishes are just gone… Forever! Really provides some perspective to your predicament, hmm? So, maybe, just stop by for lunch every once in a while to say hello to your old friend. (Or just keep writing to us an MAYBE we’ll put it on the dinner menu again).

So, did that help? If “no,” then sorry. The reality of the situation is that menu items are deleted for a reason—and it’s not spite. Most items that are removed either underperform sales wise, or end up being too costly to produce at a reasonable price, and they’re not likely to return. That may be disappointing to hear, but it’s the sad truth. We’re always trying to improve out menu though, so hopefully, if not now, you’ll find a new favorite dish at Black Star Co-op.

Did I forget your favorite dearly departed dish? Share you favorite dish to ever serve time on our menu!

 

The infamous Austin Chronicle photograph.

The infamous Austin Chronicle photograph.

Mr. Livesay Goes to Washington: Two Days at the RAISE Summit

A few weeks back, I traveled to Washington D.C. with over fifty other restaurateurs, managers, organizers, workers, and diners to attend the annual two-day RAISE Summit focusing on the state of the restaurant industry and the One Fair Wage Campaign.

This year I got to moderate a panel on how to implement One Fair Wage, and it was a great experience. The panel consisted of managers and owners from Kingstown 11 Cuisine in Oakland, CA, Colors Restaurant NYC, Vimala’s Curry Blossom Cafe of Chapel Hill, NC, and the Modern at the MOMA in New York City. The Modern is the first restaurant from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group that has made the shift to a tip free wage structure that they call “hospitality included,” and higher wages for both front and back of house workers. 

The summit is set in mid-April on the same days as the scheduled lobby days for the National Restaurant Association in an effort to counter-lobby their suppression of the tipped minimum wage. This year, rather than office to office visits of members of the House and Senate, we held two panels, one for House staffers, and one for Senate. I got to sit on both, and discuss the ways that Black Star Co-op supports the One Fair Wage campaign and to urge the staffers to get their Congressmen and women to support the bills on the floor of both House and Senate that move toward eliminating the tipped sub-minimum wage. 

Of course, there's more to do in D.C. than stump for fair worker treatment and dignified wages: food and drink! R&D! I had two excellent meals with great company at Rose’s Luxury and Little Serow. I also made it to the Jack Rose, a whiskey bar with a selection of over 2400 bottles, and that was pretty rad, too. Late night oysters were enjoyed at the Old Ebbitt Grill and local craft beers flowed freely. 

Personally, I think this year’s summit was the best of the three we have had thus far—more engagement from the participants, a clear expansion of restauranteurs that are doing their part to pay and treat workers more fairly, and a national movement toward the elimination of the tipped sub-minimum wage that seems to be more and more likely in the near future. 

The (Happy) Hour is Nigh!

You asked for it, and we heard ya, Member-Owners! Black Star Co-op is now proud to feature an amazingly fabulous Happy Hour for all! We spent hours upon hours of brutal, joyless labor conducting field research at Happy Hours all over town to ensure that ours is one of the best. And... We think we've come up with something truly special.

With $3 Rational beers, an amazing $5 snack selection, and glasses of wine starting at just $6, we're pretty sure you're walking away with a steal of a deal. So find an excuse to leave work early and head on over to your favorite neighborhood pub for a beer or seven—but don't forget to bring your friends!

*Happy Hour at Black Star Co-op isTues-Thurs from 3-6pm.

Spring Member’s Assembly Meeting Wrap-Up

The spring Member’s Assembly meeting, held on Sunday, April 3rd, was an information-filled whirlwind of fun!

We started out with an operational update from our outgoing Board-Staff Liaison, Nicole Renaux, who is stepping down from the position to focus on her Business Team work. Nicole refreshed our memory on the financial results of 2014 and necessary actions the Worker’s Assembly took during 2015 to ensure our shared financial success. Nicole reported that the Worker’s Assembly successfully put a shade-structure on the patio, acquired a third POS terminal, opened for lunch service, and re-calibrated worker remuneration. She then passed the mic to Mike Foster, the incoming Board-Staff Liaison. Mike reported that because many of these changes took time to implement and may take longer to fully realize the effects, the co-op sustained a small loss in 2015. Mike informed the members that the Worker’s Assembly further acted in the Fall, taking a 5% wage decrease across the co-op, and started externalizing sales tax on food in early 2016. Mike noted that so far in 2016, those changes have positively impacted the co-op, and the WA is meeting the approved budget. 

Kenley Maddux, Board President, then reported on the monitoring actions that the Board has taken and the Board’s role in the cooperative. The Board contracted an outside auditor specializing in cooperatives to review the co-ops books this year, meaning the final financials from 2015 will not be released until after the audit, which is scheduled for June. 

For the remainder of the meeting, the members split into four groups and rotated through four stations. Each station represented a core element of the Co-op: the Worker’s Assembly, the Board, the Brewery, and the Kitchen. Each station was a blend of presentation and free flowing questions, as dictated by the desires of the particular group. It was interactive and educational, the member-owners did a great job bringing their curiosity to the exercise.  

The Worker’s Assembly, as represented by Dana, Travis, and Jodi, explained in greater detail the recent operational changes, the delegation of duties, and the financial goals set at the co-op. The Board fielded questions about financial monitoring and committee work. Andy and Mike, the Beer Team, gave a tour of the brewing facility complete with discussion of sourcing and an in house beer tasting. Johnny and the Kitchen team explained the pricing strategy, the influences that inspire the eclectic pub-fare menu, and regaled us with the joys and challenges of using as many locally sourced foods as possible. 

As a Member-Owner, I’d like to thank the Worker’s Assembly for bringing it! to this MA meeting, letting us Member-Owners peek inside and remind us all the Black Star is a truly unique and wonderful place to grab a locally-sourced bite and a hand-crafted brew. On behalf of the Board, big thanks to our member-owners for showing up en force and on time to participate in our democracy. 

South By Southwest at Your Favorite Co-op Brewpub

The bluebonnets are in bloom, the days are warm, and we welcome thousands of visitors to our city. Locals are always divided on their feelings about the throng of visitors brought by SXSW. Whether you love the events or try to avoid the most active parts of town, Black Star Co-op has something for everyone. 

We’re far away enough from downtown, but still on the train line, meaning we’re a perfect place to stop for a much-needed break, a beer or a bite to eat on your way to or from an event. Most importantly, you won't have to wait in a line 100 people deep and to use a bathroom encased in plastic.

The trains are running late and so are we! Yes, our kitchen is staying open until midnight during the two weekends of SXSW. That’s right, on March 11-12 and 18-19, you can enjoy a late night at the Co-op. Stay tuned for more information on our extended SX hours.

As always, we have some awesome events and special releases especially for SXSW:

  • 3/15 House Release - Pneuma
    One of my favorite beers of all time returns! This West Coast inspired pale ale is brewed with Cascade, Citra, and Galaxy hops.
  • 3/17 St. Patrick’s Day
    Join us for corned beef and cabbage paired with a delicious Irish Stout. We'll have a bottle of green food coloring if you absolutely must have a green beer. 
  • 3/19 Crawfish Boil
    We've got a boatload of gulf crawfish. Grab a 2lb plate for $12 and join us on the newly renovated patio with a few kegs of our favorite beers. 

To better serve our customers, we’ll have a specially streamlined SXSW menu featuring all our favorite items. This means shorter lines and less wait time so you can catch that secret warehouse gig. 

So whether you’re headed into the fray or staying far away, Black Star should be on your mind. If nothing else, we should reiterate that we’ll definitely have fully functioning bathrooms with no lines to contend with. What more could you want?

Black Star Co-op 2016 Member-Owner Survey

We Want to Hear From You!

Take the 2016 Member-Owner Survey

 

Dear Member-Owner,

Meeting the needs of our growing and changing community is at the core of our cooperative philosophy. Help us nurture a passionate, engaged community by sharing your experiences and priorities. Your input will enable the Workers’ Assembly to effectively plan for a cooperative future that will meet your needs and exceed your expectations in achieving our Ends.

The compiled responses will help us:
1) Develop priorities for long and short term budgeting and planning.
2) Measure how well we are meeting our Ends and serving our member-owners and community.
3) Develop our offerings according to the needs of our member-owners.
4) Cultivate a more welcoming environment to an increasingly diverse community.

Your input is valuable and your confidentiality will be preserved. Data will be analyzed by combining your answers with hundreds of other member-owners’ comments. Click here to see our privacy policy.

Our survey goal is to gather 300 completed Member-Owner Surveys. We appreciate your support in reaching this goal. We have prizes that you can enter to win at the end of the survey. We will be giving away 2 $50 and 4 $25 gift certificates to the Co-op. Plus, you’ll receive a free rational house beer just for giving us your feedback! Simply follow the instructions at the end of the survey to receive your beer and to be entered to win a gift certficate.

This survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. Please note: some sections require an answer to all questions. If your survey does not move forward to the next page, please scroll from top to bottom of the page, and identify any unanswered questions, which are noted in red.

Take the 2016 Member-Owner Survey.

Thank you for your time, honesty, and thoughtfulness. Your opinions and ideas are important to us!

Cooperatively Yours,
Black Star Co-op

Take ‘Em for a Test Drive: First Dates at Black Star Co-op

Well, since February is the month that got stuck with St. Valentine’s Day, it’s also the “Month of Romance” by default. So that’s what we’ll be talking about—Romance. While I must admit that Black Star is maybe not the best place to take a partner for an enchanting, candle-lit sort of dinner affair, it is an apt setting for first dates. 

The meeting of strangers with an explicit, out-in-the-open objective of love (or something like it) is often, to put lightly, super weird. First date awkwardness should be softened by any means necessary, that’s why a comfortable casual setting is so important. Black Star is definitely a comfortable casual setting. 

How perfect is Black Star Co-op for first dates? Let me count the ways: 1. We’re a self-service establishment, so you won’t have to worry about the waitstaff overhearing your stiff conversation and it’s easy to settle the check in a hurry. 2. There’s plenty of beer—the tried and true social lubricant that’ll either make the date more enjoyable or more excruciating, thereby expediting the whole “getting to know one another” process. 3. Regardless on whether or not the coupling is a success, you’ll most likely have had some good food and beer while supporting the cooperative economy. 

The value of Black Star Co-op as a first-date setting is even well know among our directors. Take for instance Beth Beutel’s account of her BSC dates: 

“After my first few online dates, I decided I would be picking the place. So many online dates are disappointing, at the very least I was going to enjoy the food and drink and spend my money somewhere that represented my values. Some suitors were better than others, and none of the relationships were lasting, but the beer was always good. Maybe it was that if I went on a date at my co-op, even if the interpersonal connection was not there, I would still have honored my love and commitment to something. The primary reason I chose the co-op for so many first dates was the same reason I chose to dine and drink at Black Star now: when I'm going to go to a restaurant or pub, I'm choosing my co-op.”

If you’ve ever been on a date at Black Star Co-op or if your love story got its roots here, sound off in the comments. We want to hear your stories!

Spending Saturday With The 5th Cooperative Principle: Co-op Board Leadership Training

As members of your Board of Directors, we’re always looking for ways to deepen our understanding and skills related to business and cooperatives.   We want to be the best stewards possible of this amazing, unique, groundbreaking brew pub that we all own together!  As part of this continuing mission, earlier this month we joined the WA’s Board-Staff Liaison Team and representatives of 5 other cooperative boards from across Austin at Cooperative Board Leadership 101.  We’ve worked with CDS Consulting Co-op, the trainers, for several years, but this is the first time they’ve done a multi-co-op training like this in Austin—a huge testament to the strong and growing community of cooperatives in our region.   In addition to Black Star Co-op’s presence, housing, producer, grocery and home health care co-ops were all represented as well.  It was a remarkable gathering and we hope it will be a foundation for future trainings and collaboration to make each of us stronger!

But enough hand holding and guitar playing- what did we learn, you ask?  Well here’s a summary:

Co-op History
People have probably always cooperated to achieve more together, but the modern co-op business model from which we derive the 7 Cooperative Principles seems to have emerged in the town or Rochdale, Lancashire, England in the mid-1800s.  Rochdale was dominated by a newly industrialized weaving factory.  Residents worked for the company, were housed by the company, and had to look to the company to supply all their needs.  Some folks wanted different goods and better pricing, so they cooperated to form their own buying club.  

We also discussed the fascinating history of cooperatives in Austin.  Look for future newsletter articles on the emergence of University housing co-ops during the Great Depression and the cooperative renaissance of the 1970s that gave birth to Wheatsville Co-op.

Governance
The relationship between the Board and the Workers Assembly (at Black Star) or General Manager (at many other co-ops) is unique and complex.  The Board’s job is to oversee the business on behalf of the Member-Owners, to “steer the slow-moving ship” as one other workshop participant poetically put it, without impeding the business of making and selling great beer and food.  We spent time practicing the kind of evaluation and decision-making that will help make us good captains as our “ship” grows and changes.

Financial Literacy
This is a huge one, since Board members of co-ops may not have a financial background.  We broke down a balance sheet into its essential parts, and then translated those concepts into physical world.  In other words, we played with Legos to build a model of Black Star Co-op’s annual closing balance sheets for the last 5 years and then discussed the trends we saw over time.  

What’s Next?
The lessons we learned and connections we made with other co-ops will help your Board do our job better on your behalf, and has laid the groundwork for us to offer more robust training to new Black Star Co-op Directors who join the Board in the future.  Want to learn more and engage with your Board?  Visit a Board Meeting, a Member-owner Extravaganza, or the Cooperate section of our website. 

We hope they’ll come back!

Do you want to know more?  Attend a board meeting!