A cook, a brewer, and a businessman walk into a bar. Or, in this case, a brewpub. So the three of them walk into this brewpub, right? No, wait. The brewpub wasn't there yet, it needed to be built. They built it. Then, finally, they walk in. And the bartender said... Nothing--there was no bartender. There was no one working at the brewpub at all actually. So they took it on themselves: turned on the lights, filled the mash tun with grain, lit the grills, and cleared the tables. Eventually the doors opened to new customers (ministers, rabbis, horses, etc.) and when that would happen, the bartender said "welcome to Black Star Co-op." Eh?
It's not much of a punchline, or a joke for that matter, but it does illustrate Black Star Co-op's transition from daydream to reality.
Black Star Co-op started as idea of neighborhood beer bar owned by the community it served. Co-founder Steven Yarak publicized the idea on the internet and on neighborhood fliers. On January 14, 2006, 16 people attended a meeting in an empty lot adjacent to a friend’s house in Austin, TX to learn about the Co-op. Among that initial group was Jeff Young and Johnny Livesay, Black Star Co-op's eventual first Beer and Kitchen Team Leaders.
During the Co-op's incipient years they focused on laying the business foundation and growing and educating the membership. The business was incorporated in Texas as a co-operative association under the new Business Organizations Code, bylaws were drafted and approved, and an interim Board of Directors was elected. A large home brewing system was acquired with the first round of membership capital, and the first fundraising event surrounding the Craft Brewers Conference that April and was a huge success.
The first general meeting of the Co-op was held on November 11, 2006. There the Board completed an effort to realize the final aspect of their foundation as a cooperative: the Workers’ Assembly. Two staff members were hired, including Business Team Leader Dana Curtis, to assist in administration and development of the Co-op and Beer socials continued as a regular monthly event hosting 300-500 members.
After raising nearly $500,000 from Member-Owners, Black Star Co-op opened its doors to the public in September 2010. Situated in Central Austin’s Midtown Commons complex at Airport and North Lamar, Black Star Co-op welcomed guests with seasonal house crafted beers, 20 guest taps from craft breweries near and far, and made-from-scratch local, sustainably sourced Texas pub fare.
Since opening, Black Star Co-op has been recognized by several organizations for the products and services offered. The Co-op is certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council, the first brew pub to achieve this honor. In 2013 Black Star Co-op was included in the ROCUnited Diners’ Guide to Ethical Eating its commitment to fair labor practices, making the Co-op the only establishment in Texas to be included in the guide. Black Star Co-op has also been recognized in the Austin Chronicle for “Best Pub Grub 2012,” “Best Tipping Policy 2011,” and as a “Reader’s Favorite 2012,” along with other honorable mentions in its annual polls. The Co-op was recognized at the Great American Beer Festival in 2013, receiving a bronze medal in the Herb & Spice category for Elba, and in 2015, receiving a gold medal in the Robust Porter category for Recalcitrant Dockhand.
Success and community support continue to drive our efforts to provide exceptional sustainable products, a fair working environment, and growth to the co-operative movement.
At the end of 2013, the Workers’ Assembly has 27 workers on staff, 17 of whom are voting body members. The Co-op itself has nearly 3,200 member-owners. Together, the Board of Directors–who are elected by the membership–and the Workers’ Assembly forge ahead to realize the unique vision of a co-operatively owned brewpub.