« on: December 06, 2013, 09:56:32 AM »
Warning - basically brain vomit...
A friend of mine is opening a CSB in Vermont called Burlington Beer Company. CSB members get a series of limited release specialty beers through the year, so it's not even close to a year's worth of beer. I think the benefit of this style CSB (for the brewery) is in identifying and building relationships with customers than providing funding for the brewery. Although I'm sure it does mitigate some risk and money upfront is always preferable.
Around here anyway, CSA mostly provide a set volume of food/week. During a good year, the farms may give some bonuses members, but they sell a lot of it too. Likewise, when a farm can't meet it's commitment, members get very frustrated. But farms operate on a cycle that breweries don't have to worry about. They pay expenses in the spring, work through a long growing season, and then get paid when the crop matures. There are few ways around this, but the CSA provides a way to get paid when the farm is putting out expenses. An established brewery produces year round, so it won't benefit as much from the cash flow advantage. Still, it might help it get started when no money is coming in.
I don't think a CSB would be a good way to fund equipment/facility expenses. It's basically a loan from your customers, but it's a loan that will be paid off within the year. So I think it's wise to use it for certain expenses like ingredients, not for expenses you'd rather have years to pay off, like fermenters. It might encourage investors to see CSB memberships, but I wonder if the time you're looking for investors is long before the time you're looking for CSB members (which would be sold when the brewery is almost or is open).
I'm surprised that I haven't seen a Kickstarter where people could pre-purchase beer from a yet-to-be-opened brewery. Then again, you might need controls to prevent everyone from redeeming their purchase in the first weeks after you've opened. The last thing you want after going through the expense of building a brewery is to be giving away large portions of your first batches (ie paying back those loans) at a time when you're cash flow is probably poor. Not that it can't, or shouldn't be done. It's just I think a CSB owner would have to carefully plan what the money goes towards and how repayment will affect sales.
Then again, if I owned a brewery and somebody asked if I'd rather be paid today or last month...