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.
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.