Switchback Brewing Company


Year Founded: 2002
Years of Employee Ownership: 100% ESOP since 2017
Headquartered in: Burlington, VT
Number of Employees: just over 30
Line of Business: Brewery

The Switchback Brewing Company was founded by Bill Cherry and Jeff Neiblum in 2002 with one goal in mind – to brew unexpected, relatable, great tasting beer. A year later, the brewery hired its first employee, Chris Dooley, and eventually ran 24-hours a day to keep up with demand.

Today, the Switchback lineup has grown to include over 20 beers as year-round offerings, rotating specials and limited releases. Since 2014, the brewery has also included a tap room where it offers its limited release and experimental brews not found in stores.

Founder, brewmaster and president Bill Cherry took a bold step in 2017 when he turned ownership of the brewery over to the employees. Switchback is now 100% employee owned via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), the first of its kind in Vermont and New England.

After attending the VEOC's annual Employee Ownership Conference in 2017, the company posted some reflections on their website about what it means to be employee owned.

"Employee-owned companies keep profits in their state, which keeps the money flowing throughout the local economy," the post read. "This can also help protect and stabilize the local economy from the national economy’s unpredictable ups and downs. Whatever state you’re in, supporting employee-owned businesses affects you and the local community."

"We have always had pride in our products here at Switchback, but since going employee-owned, it has been brought to a whole new level. And this is not specific to us. In fact, this tends to be the norm at employee-owned businesses."

Today, Cherry runs the company with the occasional support of an off-site board of directors. The company says the "collaborative management style and environment of ingenuity" ensures that "Switchback will always be made locally by real brewers and not high-production operations."

Overall, very little has changed at the company since becoming employee-owned, as employee owner Darby Kitchel states in an interview from April 2017: "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."