On a call with Seven Days in late November 2015, Switchback Brewing cofounder and president Bill Cherry reflected on the success of his flagship amber ale. He had formulated the beer and supervised its production since its 2002 debut, tweaking the recipe along the way. Even so, Cherry refused to take full credit for it. “That’s not my beer,” he said. “That’s a beer we’ve all created together.”
Cherry went on to describe the company’s collaborative management style, through which, he said, he hoped to “create an environment of ingenuity.” Doing so, he argued, would foster a fun and positive workplace and result in the best possible beer.
Then, in a somewhat cryptic aside, he added, “I’m going to disappear sometime.” But he hoped to develop an exit plan that would keep the company’s homespun spirit alive.
That is exactly what he has done. At an all-staff meeting on February 6, Cherry and brewery cofounder and business partner Jeff Neiblum announced that they’d sold the company — to its workers — under an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).