Commonhouse Ales is a business model long-time brewery owner Lenny Kolada hopes gets copied.
Kolada is no stranger to craft beer as one of the pioneers in the Columbus scene and owner of an operation that’s nearly old enough to drink itself, Smokehouse Brewing.
“I just thought that the difference between what beer was available in Central Ohio back then to what it could be was the difference between watching the beginning of Wizard of Oz in black and white to the end in technicolor,” he says.
Kolada wasn’t necessarily thinking about starting another businesses when he landed on the idea for Commonhouse Ales, “I was thinking more philosophically,” he says.
And what he was thinking was the world is a pretty crazy place overrun with a lack of personal responsibility. He saw too much finger pointing, too much waiting and relying on somebody else to solve problems.
When it comes down to changing the state of things, “We’ve got to solve it ourselves the best way we can individually,” Kolada says.
It was during these reflections he also discovered the B Corp. Certified by nonprofit organization B Lab, certified B Corps operate with transparency, accountability and meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance.
“Once I started reading about B Corps, I thought this is the perfect vehicle to express what I’m thinking, and why not do it with beer, ” Kolada says. “We know beer is good, but what about if we could make beer for good?”
While its certification is still pending (it takes about a year of operation to quality), Commonhouse Ales will be the first B Corp brewery in the state and joins a short list of others across the country. While the brewery list may be minimal, Commonhouse Ales is joined by a growing list of businesses, including fellow local B Corp Fulcrum Creatives who helped Commonhouse Ales with their branding, interested in more than just enriching their shareholders.
“It appears that while that works, that’s starting to get a little bit tired,” Kolada says.
Commonhouse Ales not only wants to make good beer, but ultimately leave society a little better than how it found it.
“We’re adhering to a triple bottom line,” Kolada says.
One is obviously to keep the business running, but “While we do that we want to consider that we have employees, and it’s not just the creator of a business that made that business happen,” Kolada says.
Employees are along for the ride and receiving recognition for what they do.
The third line is Commonhouse Ales’ impact on the community. One of its flagship brews, Six.One For Good Ale will come with a profit model that means dollars for community nonprofits.
One dollar of every six pack of Six.One For Good Ale, as well as a portion of keg sales, will be funneled into a fund the brewery established with the Columbus Foundation, Commonhouse Shares. The brewery also seeded the fund with $10,000 of its own money.
“About once a year we will make grants from that account to Central Ohio charities that have great missions, but greater needs,” Kolada says.
Commonhouse Shares aims to make the biggest impact with its dollars by focusing on lesser-known organizations who don’t have that instant recognition or funding mechanisms in place.
“There are charities here in Central Ohio who do really, really great things but no one has ever heard of them,” Kolada says. “We hope to shine some light on them.”
As a B Corp, Commonhouse Ales is making other commitments to doing things differently.
Employees are incentivized to walk, bike, use public transit or drive a hybrid to work, tacking on a few extra dollars of pay a day if they do so. A feat of engineering is making its second-hand boiler more efficient, not only saving water but heating costs. Commonhouse Ales is also opting to treat its wastewater, resulting in a solid farmers can utilize and water that’s almost clean enough to drink.
Kolada wants Commonhouse Ales to be a laboratory of sorts, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and showing the local craft beer community how a different way of thinking can have an impact.
“Out of everything I’ve ever done…this is the first venture that I hope gets copied a bunch,” he says. “I’m hoping to be an example to others.”
Commonhouse Ales started brewing their first official batch of beers last Tuesday, July 5 at their Brewery District facility, 535 Short St. Kolada expects the first round to be ready by early August and popping up in local beer-centric restaurants and bottle shops.
Commonhouse Ales plans to tier their distribution, eyeing local grocers next then larger chains, ensuring they can keep up with production capacity.
The Commonhouse Ales facility is production only, but consumers can head to Smokehouse Brewing to sip on the ales and get the full brewpub experience.
For more information, visit commonhouseales.com.