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.