Black Star Co-op is a fairly new brewery and pub in Austin, TX, and the first co-op brewery in town. Being a co-operative means that the business is owned by the people (or members, in the case of Black Star) and the employees. We decided to check them out by scheduling a brewery tour for Kegerator.com employees that were interested.
One of the first things I learned about Black Star when I arrived is that the employees at the bar don’t accept tips. I ordered my first beer (a Thirsty Goat Amber) and looked around for a tip jar with no luck. I asked the girl who took my order where I could leave a tip, and she informed me that the employees of Black Star all receive living wages. So no tip jars on the bar and no tip line on the receipt. Awesome.
A few of us in the group enjoyed a beer as we waited for everyone to arrive and the tour to begin. It’s definitely a nice setup for hanging out with friends, inside or out on the patio.
The tour began with us climbing a ladder to a loft in the brewery room where the grains and mill are stored. We tasted some of the grains on hand and got a quick overview of Black Star’s process. The next part of the tour included two mash tuns where the grains are steeped and 4 fermenters, which each can hold 20 half barrels of beer. The final stop was the cold room where the beer being served at the bar is stored and kept cool.
We learned that Black Star never makes the same beer twice; they’re constantly tweaking and improving the recipes, so while the beer might have the same name, there could be subtle changes in the taste.
After the tour, some of us hung around to drink some more, chat, play darts and try some food. The place got fairly crowded in the evening, so there was a bit of a line to order beer or food, but the atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable.
I look forward to going back soon and possibly becoming a member. Do you have any co-op breweries near you? Plug them in the comments!