This business model is known as a community-supported brewery — and is very similar to community supported agriculture, CSA, through which small farms deliver produce to members on a regular basis. The setup allows the farms to have a built-in clientele and guaranteed funding. Community-supported breweries are fairly rare across the country but have seen some success.
Lady Justice’s goal, though, will be to donate 100 percent of its profits (everything over the cost of making the beer) to various Colorado organizations that promote “the status and opportunity of women and girls.” Money will be awarded via a grant-making process.
“This is sort of an experiment,” says Betsy Lay, who will serve as the head brewer for Lady Justice. “We are brewing beer in order to give money back. We are hoping this will be a good match for people who like to do that. So far, the response has been good. People say, ‘I already like giving to causes in Colorado. This is a way I can get beer out of it, too.’”
Lay, who works in higher education, met the other two co-founders, Kate Power and Jen Cuesta, while all three were serving together in Americorps. Power and Cuesta went on to law school, but all three continued to share an interest in social justice — and beer. So, while downing a few pints at Vine Street Pub one day, they came up with the idea for Lady Justice.
As for the beer, Lay is starting with a one-barrel brewing system inside a 332-square-foot space. She plans to start with four flagship beers — a blonde, an IPA, an amber and a stout — and to distribute them to members in six-packs or twenty-ounce bottles. They also plan to distribute some beer to liquor stores and restaurants on a limited basis.
Lady Justice brewed a collaboration red IPA in May with Factotum Brewing; some of the proceeds from the sales of that beer went to support Love 146, a nonprofit that works to stop child sex trafficking.
“The goal is to do eighty memberships, which would allow us to brew three times a month,” Lay explains. The cost of the beer will be slightly more than something similar would cost at a liquor store, but “not so much so that people wouldn’t want to buy it.”
The initial impact on charitable organizations “won’t be huge, but it won’t be minuscule, either," Lay adds. "It should make an impact in some way. As we grow, we look forward to having more money each year to donate." Learn more about Lady Justice and community-supported breweries on the brewery's website.
Call to Arms Brewing in Denver recently announced that it would become part of a multi-business Community Supported Agriculture group that will deliver beer, locally cured meats, produce and bread to members. Soul Squared Brewing, which is located on an actual farm in Fort Collins, also runs on a CSA model.