• The Gypsy Brewers: Contract or Alternating Proprietorship?
  • October 3, 2017 | Author: Jake Posey
  • Law Firm: The Posey Law Firm, P.C. - Austin Office
  • Gypsy brewers are craft beer brewers without their own brewery. They rent space and equipment in a functioning brewery under one of two models. Some gypsy brewers are just starting in the business, and some prefer to remain "on the road" rather than tied to their own, very expensive, structure. Either way, the contract between the gypsy brewer and the brewery regarding space, equipment, supplies, and staff determined if the relationship will be a contract brewery or an alternating proprietorship.

    In an alternating proprietorship, the gypsy brewer brings all of their own supplies, uses their own recipes, and has staff to do all of the work involved in brewing the beer. The brewery allows them to use equipment and fermentation and storage tanks. In this model, the gypsy brewers keep the most control over their own product, including fermentation, bottling, shipping, and distribution.

    Contract brewery means anything less than this, with specific guidelines that detail who is responsible for what. There are some new models being trialed in other states with brewery incubators, specifically designed for craft beer startups who don't have infrastructure or resources. Texas has North Texas Brewing Company, a full-service brewery specifically designed for the new gypsy brewer, with a full range of contracted services. They are also providing extra brewing space for smaller operations who are expanding to meet the new demand.

    Jake Posey, managing shareholder of The Posey Law Firm, PC, explains that regardless of the amount of assistance and service gypsy brewers get from their contracted brewery, each small business needs to have a license to brew beer and a thorough understanding of the regulations regarding crafting for sale a product containing alcohol. Distribution and shipping are more complicated when craft beer is sold over state lines. Understanding clearly the structure a new gypsy brewer will need to fit within is critical.

    Homebrewers without a license can brew up to 200 gallons of beer for the use of their family. While it can't be sold, this home brewed beer can be shared with others as part of tastings or for a review. While this may be one way to trial new recipes, a license is mandatory once beer is being produced in larger scale or for sale to the public. The contract or alternating proprietorship agreement does not include legal use of the brewery's license to brew beer.

    Before signing a standard contract or proprietorship agreement, consider discussing the complex issues involved with opening a business making, distributing, and selling beer. For more information, please contact us.