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Hi Neighbor! Meet Austin Rood of Flying Bike Cooperative Brewery

PhinneyWood is full of wonderful people and great places that we all wish we knew more about. Resident Kevin Kozel periodically digs deeper to let us know more in a column we like to call … Hi Neighbor!

Seattle continues to be one of the top cities for craft brewing in the nation. At last count the city is home to over 25 of them! Not everyone is a brewmaster, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still own a brewery. PhinneyWood’s Flying Bike Cooperative Brewing gives everyone an opportunity to do just that. It is the only democratically run, member-owned and operated cooperative in the state. They also have several brews on tap, ranging from lighter styles like Kolsch, up to heavier stouts. And did you know members get discounts and plenty of other benefits? President Austin Rood (bottom right in the picture above) tells us more about what makes Flying Bike fly.

Kevin Kozel (KK): Let’s start at the beginning. How did Flying Bike come to be?

Austin Rood (AR): The idea was started back in 2010 by a man named Jeff Hicks. He wrote on a blog somewhere that he wanted to get people together to pitch his idea for a “Disneyland of Beer.” Out of that initial pitch came about 30 or 40 people that really liked his idea of a cooperative brewery, and they ended up incorporating their little business in the beginning of 2011.

KK: This was well before coming to PhinneyWood then?

AR: They would meet at what is now the Hounds tooth Public House across the street, so we’ve always had a bit of a connection to this neighborhood without even knowing it. They finally found this place in 2015 after doing a lot of searching in Capital Hill, Ballard, Downtown … We’ve just had our fourth anniversary. This was all well before me though, I became a member in 2016.

KK: For Flying Bike to be successful, you really need to have a strong connection to the community. Have you felt that here?

AR: I think so. Sixty to seventy percent of our membership live within a two-to three-mile radius of the brewery, so definitely from a membership standpoint. Also, one of our tenets is to give back to the community, so most of our pint nights have us partnering with locally-based organizations and other co-ops. We also have a lot of food partnerships because we don’t have a restaurant here. You can order from Sushi Naomi, North Star, and Luna Azul at the bar and have the food delivered. The Olive and Grape, Razzi’s, Laem Buri, Hummus, Kalia, and Chaco Canyon will also deliver here.

KK: And where did the name Flying Bike come from?

AR: The idea at the time was that the concept of a community owned, everyone-pitches-in type of business brewery was just as ridiculous as a flying bike. There’s not a lot of co-op breweries in America, so after four years we’re still trying to figure out what it means and what best practices are.

KK: Four years is a big landmark for most businesses, is that different for a brewery?

AR: The thought used to be that as a brewery you could open your doors and do well. There are a lot more breweries now; especially in Seattle, there is a lot of competition. In the first two years you get enough people trying your brewery because it’s new. Years two through four are where you need to define who you are and if you’re going to stick around. If you give to your clientele, you will receive as a business. I think we’re just starting to hit our stride as a business.

KK: How many members does Flying Bike currently have?

AR: I think we’re at 1,970. We’re pushing for our 2,000th member this year.

KK: And how can you become a member?

AR: There are two options. You can become a lifetime member for $200 or you get a joining membership by putting $50 down and paying the rest in installments. There are all kinds of member benefits. There are member discounts, member tastings and member education. Home brewers can submit recipes to our competitions and we have home brew judging. There are all kinds of special things you can’t get at other breweries. With the joining membership you get the monetary benefits, but the other benefits only really happen when you’ve fully paid up. For anyone interested, you can sign up at the bar or by going to the website.

KK:  You are in an elected position as the current Board President of Flying Bike. Are elections yearly?

AR: We have yearly elections. Three board seats are up for election every year and each elected member serves a three year term. Ballots will be sent out to all of our members to vote. Myself, vice president, and one of our other board members are at the end of our terms, so our spots will be up for vote this fall. We welcome anyone who wants to be a part of the team that makes all of the decisions for the brewery to participate in the election.

KK: Are there less demanding ways to be involved?

AR: Being on the board does take a lot of time. A lot of people can’t do that and we understand. There are a lot of other ways to get involved though. You don’t have to be a brewer, you just have to care about seeing Flying Bike succeed. We have volunteers who pour at festivals, participate in clean ups around the community, and even make all of our graphic designs.

If you want to know more about the brewery, membership, or find out what’s on tap visit  www.flyingbike.coop or swing by for a pint at 8570 Greenwood Avenue.

Any person, place, or thing you want to know more about in our neighborhood? Feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll look into making it a future feature on Hi Neighbor!