Posts in Co-Owner Clips
Co-Owner Clips: Connie Barrett
Switchback Brewing Company Employee-owned

On February 6th at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder and Brewmaster, Bill Cherry announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in Vermont via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). We could not be any more excited because this means the company will be Vermont-owned forever. It is now up to us, the employees, to carry on with the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery locally-owned and operated.

So now that we are employee-owned, we are taking this opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback. Every single employee plays a strong part in our company culture, mission, and values.

Next up: Connie Barrett!

You know, when you work at a brewery, there are some positions that get more publicity than others. Brewers make the beer so usually the public is most interested in them. Owners of any company are used to questions and camera time and marketing and sales teams have their fair share of interviews. But there’s always those people whose jobs, while not always glamorous, are so crucial to a company that it would literally implode without them. One of those people here at Switchback, is Connie.

As is pretty customary in a small company, Connie (and all of us) wear many hats. To give you an idea of just a small snippet of what Connie does, her duties include accounting, payroll, mixed with a little bit of HR, in addition to distribution management aka making sure our distributors don’t run out of beer, tracking our production and reconciling inventory, all wrapped up with a little bit of customer service. And since going employee-owned, Connie is now currently learning the ropes of how exactly an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) works.

Born and raised in Vermont, Connie had a variety of accounting jobs in a whole bunch of different industries before coming to work at Switchback. From fuel, to high end loudspeakers, home & car audio, construction, to 'made in Vermont' products…the list goes on and on! We are so thankful for the winding path (or switchback!) that, somehow through serendipity, brought her to our brewery. And the story behind how she was hired is pretty classically Switchback. “I interviewed with Bill and Chris and I liked what they had to say. They seemed to like me too. Chris called me back for a second interview to meet the crew. I arrived and was brought to a table (a pallet on top of three kegs) where there was a pile, three layers high, of wings. I met the other (then 9) employees, ate wings, drank beers, then was brought back into Bill’s office where they offered me the job.”

We tracked Connie down when she had a moment to spare to learn more about her and her thoughts on working at Switchback.

What’s your favorite Switchback beer? I do love Switchback Ale, Citra-Pils Keller Bier and Extra Pale Ale but…my favorite is our Roasted Red Ale. Delicious!

What’s your favorite thing about working at a brewery, and more specifically, Switchback? My favorite thing about working at a brewery, aside from great beer, is the atmosphere. There is always something to do and always more to learn. Never a dull moment. What I love about working at Switchback is this crazy family. I love how Bill has really thought through each step and made sure with every growth, the quality of our product is #1 along with making sure the brewery (employees and equipment) can handle the next big step. I love that there is so much to learn, and everyone is so great in sharing their knowledge.

How has Switchback changed throughout the time you have worked here I started work at Switchback five years ago and I was employee #11. We now have just over thirty employees. We were brewing one great brew all year-round (Switchback Ale) and had three Rotating Specials (Dooley’s Belated Porter, Slow-Fermented Brown Ale & Roasted Red Ale). These days we have two year-round brews, our Rotating Specials have more than doubled and every so often we brew a batch of a special Limited Run. When I started, the bottling line was arriving in crates and being put together. We started bottling 22oz bombers once a week, with all the employees (including office staff) helped on the bottling line. Now we bottle several days a week, the office isn’t needed on the bottling line anymore and we bottle both 22oz bombers and our little 12oz stubbies. We now have a Tap Room, where we host all sorts of events and our territory has strengthened to include VT, NH, ME, Upstate NY, MA and RI. Needless to say, a lot has changed!

How did you feel when Bill originally broke the news of going employee-owned and how do you feel now about this transition? That’s the Bill way. He cares so much about Switchback, the beer, the employees and the customers. Right now I am proud to be a part of the Switchback crew of owners.

Cheers, Connie, for all that you do!

Co-Owner Clips: Sean Reen
Switchback Brewing Company Employee Owned

On February 6th, at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder and Brewmaster, Bill Cherry, announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in Vermont via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). We could not be any more excited because this means the company will be Vermont-owned forever. It is now up to us, the employees, to carry on with the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery locally-owned and operated.

So now that we are employee-owned, we are taking this opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback. Every single employee plays a strong part in our company culture, mission, and values.

Next up! Sean Reen.

Otherwise known as our goofy, music loving, Phish obsessed, photo-taking brewer. He’s been with us since 2008 and is one of our longest standing employees. Almost 10 years ago, after a long season as a lift operator at Mad River Glen, Sean showed up at the brewery to ask Bill for a job. “I told Bill I didn’t know anything about brewing but I drank a lot of good beer.“ Two days later, Sean arrived at the brewery for his first day on the job.

Sean literally embodies the Switchback brand both in consumption and lifestyle. The outdoorsy life is the way for Sean and on his days off you can find him on the top of a mountain, post-hike, feet up, enjoying the view with a Switchback in hand. Sean understands both of our brewing systems like the back of his hand, and his hobbies leak into his job here at the brewery in more endearing ways than one; from the music that floods the production floor during his brews, to the incredible behind-the-scenes photos he takes inside of the brewery.

We caught up with Sean on one of his night brews to learn more about his path through Switchback and his thoughts on our recent shift to employee-owned.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in a small town called Walden. There are about 700 people there, no traffic lights or crosswalks and up until 8th grade, I went to one room school houses that were built in the 1800's. There’s not much going on there but we often make the news for most snowfall in the state.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work? My favorite hobby is going to concerts. Whether it’s at Nectar's or MSG, there’s something about live music that puts me in a very zen-full happy place. Good music is very important to all aspects of my life. Bad music really harshes my mellow, man.

How have you seen Switchback change over the years and where do you see it going in the future? I’ve been here for almost 10 years and there’s been slow and steady growth the entire time. We’ve always taken our time with new projects to make sure we’re doing it right and there’s always been a focus on quality over quantity so all of the changes and growth have felt completely fluid and natural. I think Switchback will continue to slowly grow, expand throughout the Northeast and continue to produce a variety of world-class beers. The further away from the brewery the beer gets, the less control we have over the quality, so I don’t think we’re going to worldwide any time soon. However, I definitely see lots of new markets and new beers for a long time to come.

How did you feel when Bill broke the news of going employee-owned?

I was surprised but not shocked. Bill has always been good to his employees and Switchback is obviously his baby so it made sense that the brand and those who helped make it a success would all be protected and taken care of forever. It was a classic Bill Cherry move.

Co-Owner Clips: Dan Tomaino
Switchback Brewing Company Employee Owned

On February 6th, 2017 at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder, Bill Cherry announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in New England via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). We could not be any more excited because this means it is now up to us, the employees, to carry on the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery Vermont-owned and operated forever.

So now that we're employee-owned, we're taking the opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback.

Next up? Dan Tomaino

As our resident artist and musician, Dan has been a strong creative force at Switchback for over 10 years. If you frequent the brewery, chances are you’ve seen his pantings on Co-Owner Clips: Dan Tomainothe wall or have heard him strumming on his guitar in the Tap Room. And like many creative souls, we can't recall seeing him wear a single work shirt that wasn't black. But where Dan inspires us the most, is up in the big brewhouse where he’s perfected the form of art that we know best: brewing damn good beer.

We sat down with Dan to find out more about both himself and his perspective after 10 years at Switchback.

What’s your favorite Switchback beer? Switchback Ale is the one I've found myself still loving after 10 years. Like good music, there is always something new to discover.

Favorite music to listen to while brewing and why? Depends on my mood, what's going on and who I'm working with. I won't narrow it down too much, but needless to say we listen to a lot of WEEN, PRIMUS, PINK FLOYD and a classic rock. Every time we get a new batch of employees, more styles come in. Some are great, some not so much, but we all try to take turns and sometimes you find something new that blows your mind. Switchback beer may be the life blood of the brewery and the crew it's mind and muscle, but music is the soul that energizes us daily.

How have you seen Switchback grow over the years and where do you see us going in the future? Having been with the company for over 10 years, I've seen it progress from a tiny 5 person operation into the growing business it is today. This has meant, that often I've had to relearn the way I do my job as we acquire new equipment. People have come and gone but on a whole, it's been amazing to watch hard work get rewarded. People really love our product and it feels great to be able to spread it further and further. In the future, I would like to see us continue on the trajectory that was laid out many years ago...none of us have a profound need to see the brewery take over the worCo-Owner Clips: Dan Tomainold. Being a high quality regional brewery would be just fine with me. Quality, after all, should always beat quantity.

How did you feel when Bill broke the news of going employee-owned? Sheer panic as he told us he was selling the company. Jeff (Bill's business partner) was sitting next to me and was watching; trying very hard to hide his amusement as my hat came off and my face grew pale. Panic then became dumb shock which then became overwhelming joy. I was always proud to work for Switchback regardless of whether or not I was an owner. It is a great feeling to know that Bill is more concerned about the continuation of his legacy rather then the wealth it generates. Always in the back of my mind was the worry that sooner or later, big beer would swallow us little folk: NO LONGER!

What’s your favorite thing about working at Switchback? I think it's a toss up between the people I work with and the fact that I create something for a living. It's not everyday those two things exist side to side. Being able to make something that people all over love and then get together with the people who helped to make it..to enjoy that product is an amazing feeling.

Cheers Dan! Thanks for all your dedication and passion throughout the years.

Co-Owner Clips: Tony Morse

On February 6th at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder and Brewmaster, Bill Cherry announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in all of New England via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). We could not be any more excited because this means the company will be Vermont-owned forever. It is now up to us, the employees, to carry on with the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery locally-owned and operated.

So now that we are employee-owned, we are taking this opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback. Every single employee plays a strong part in our company culture, mission and values.

Next up? Tony Morse.

Switchback Brewing Company Tony Morse

Head Brewer and one of the OG crew members here at Switchback. Tony was the brewery’s third hire, way back in 2006, making him one of our longest standing employees. Like a surprisingly large amount of us, Tony didn’t let a lack of professional brewing experience deter him from pursuing a career in the industry. Before turning his passion for beer into a reality, he acquired a degree in middle-level education, which does not go unused here at Switchback. Tony is the go-to teacher at the brewery. We can always count on him to explain the intricacies of brewing in ways us normal people can understand.

All of this is great, but Tony’s real claim to fame is being the proud father of our beloved Slow-Fermented Brown. It is widely known among Tony’s co-workers and friends that his all-time favorite beer is Genesee Cream Ale. When he suggested that we brew our own version of a Cream Ale everyone laughed except for Brewery Founder Bill who could see that Tony was actually on to something. The result was our Slow-Fermented Brown Ale; an ale brewed at cooler temperatures like a lager, giving it a gentle creaminess and a crazy smooth finish. A Switchback cult favorite to this day! Co-Owner Clips: Tony Morse

We caught up with Tony on his turf (in the big brewhouse) to find out more about him and his thoughts on going employee-owned.

Where did you grow up? I’m a Marine brat so I grew up all over the place; Massachusetts, Tennessee, Hawaii, Mauritania Africa, Luxembourg Europe, and California to name a few. All of that before the age of 13, then moved to Vermont and ended up attending the same High school both of my parents did; Harwood Union High School (for the locals). I’ve been here ever since.

Favorite hobbies and does this inspire parts of your job? I love to play golf and am currently obsessing over fermenting veggies. I feel like golf helps me focus on problem solving because I rarely have an easy time getting the ball in the cup. Different vegetable fermentations help to inspire me and most of all, feed me.

Favorite music to listen to while brewing and why? NOFX or Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, because they are awesome. Every once in a while I’ll throw on some Deathklok to shake things up.

What’s the story behind how you came to work at Switchback? As soon as I was “legal” I started home brewing. It was love at first sip of awful, flat, warm, oxidized, and infected bottle that didn’t explode. But I made it, it was mine! While waiting tables I got wind through the grape vine that Switchback was looking to hire someone with brewing experience. I had nothing to lose so I brought in a resume, met with Bill, and 2 weeks later I had a part time job scrubbing the outsides of kegs. As the company grew so did I. 11 years later I’m head brewer and a co-owner of a fantastic brewery. I was 23 when this Co-Owner Clips: Tony Morseall started.

Proudest brewing moment? Winning the brewery Chili Cook-off!!! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder than the moment we found out that Bill would never sell the company and that he was entrusting the fate of the brewery to us, the employees. I’ll admit I was so proud I got teary eyed.

How have you seen Switchback change/grow over the years after working here for so long? The size and scale of the company has increased dramatically. What in my mind has changed the most is how we do things. Each process has changed, or evolved, over time for the better. With each new set of hands involved in the process have come improvements that we could never have imagined. That’s one of the best things about this place; we take everyone’s input into consideration. If an idea has merit, we will try it. If that idea makes the process easier or faster without compromising any of our standards we will make that the new way we do things.

Where do you see Switchback going in the future? The sky is the limit. I see us expanding territories, developing new products, and overall becoming better at what we do. We can do anything.

Cheers Tony! Thanks for all that you do.

Co-Owner Clips: Darby Kitchel
Switchback employee-owned

On February 6th at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder and Brewmaster, Bill Cherry announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in Vermont via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). We could not be any more excited because this means the company will be Vermont-owned forever. It is now up to us, the employees, to carry on with the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery locally-owned and operated.

So now that we are employee-owned, we are taking this opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback. Every single employee plays a strong part in our company culture, mission and values.

Next up: Darby Kitchel!

Known at the brewery for his fantastic fashion choices and for walking into the room with a resounding, “Hey fam!”

What we want folks to understand most about Darby, is his pure and unadulterated passion for each and everything he sets his mind to. Darby has had several jobs here at the brewery, moving up quickly and absolutely slaying each and every position along the way.

Darby only started at Switchback in 2015 as a part-timer in the Tap Room. He quickly worked his way up to full-time and by the end of 2016, he was full-force managing the Tap Room. Throughout this entire transition, Darby seized the opportunity to focus on his passion and grow with a company he said he could stand behind.

“Right before I officially started managing the Tap Room, I sat down with Brewery Founder, Bill, and told him that I was 100% in for the long haul. I told Bill that I was more than excited to manage the Tap Room but I had a true goal to represent the company and speak on behalf of our brand outside of the Tap Room. This resonated with Bill and throughout that Summer I started to do promotional events.”

By 2017, he had officially passed on the Tap Room torch and began to make the move into the marketing and sales world.

These days, Darby is one of four folks on our sales team and can usually be found on the road throughout New England, slinging Switchback. On a day-to-day basis, he heads to stores, bars and restaurants to sell the brand and to give our accounts the love and gratitude that they deserve. He also speaks on behalf of the company at beer festivals, tap takeovers, beer dinners, samplings and other various promotional events. In addition to this, he is out and about visiting places that haven’t yet had Switchback to introduce them to the unfiltered goodness that we brew.

“Since I began at Switchback in 2015, it was always a goal of mine to be able to go on the road and help our company grow. Words really can’t explain how grateful I am for how all of this has worked out.”

We gave Darby a call in his hotel room after a long day on the road to learn more about him and his thoughts on our recent switch to employee-ownership.

Where are you from and what were you doing before working at Switchback? I was born in Randolph and raised in the beautiful town of Sharon, Vermont. Before I was working at Switchback, I worked for a small sports network based out of Lyndonville, Vermont. We would produce the live streams for College and High School sports. I was basically the guy who worked the camera, switched between commercials and put together the instant replays. This job was based around the school year so it was perfect timing when I came across the opportunity to work at Switchback.

What is your favorite Switchback Brew? This is one of the harder questions for me to answer. Since I have started working for Switchback I have always loved trying new things. Our rotational beers cover a wonderful spectrum of beer styles. Our new year-round release the Citra-Pils is quite possibly the most refreshing beer I have ever had. Coming into Summer I would have to say that Citra-Pils has been my beer of choice lately. That being said, I always come back to the Switchback Ale. The balanced complexity of the Ale makes it hands down my go to beer in any situation. (Can you tell he’s in sales?)

What’s your favorite thing about working at Switchback? It’s a family here. We are a small company that has just reached the milestone of 30 employees but each person that works here plays their roll (or several rolls). We have an amazing group of people that make up our company.

How do you feel about our transition to employee ownership? The transition to employee-ownership really reflects the values that Bill has instilled in this company since he first started it. He has always made sure that he has taken care of his employees and now has ensured that Switchback will be Vermont-owned forever. The day after Bill broke the news about us becoming employee-owned we all came to work and it was as if nothing had changed. Of course there was buzz in the air but we all were back to work to continue to make the great beer that so many people love. In a nut shell, I couldn’t be more excited about this transition. Our future is in the right hands.

It’s employees like Darby, who are so passionate about this industry and our brewery we call home, that truly make this company what it is. We’re so thankful for every single Switchback employee whose devotion truly allows authenticity in everything we do.