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Buying a Round For the House

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Like a carelessly poured beer, business at East End Brewery is spilling out over the top. Owner/founder Scott Smith wants to double production, but needs more room: Already the empty kegs in his Homewood facility are piled 14 feet high.  

"We knew we were going to run out of space," says Smith.

He already has a new home in mind up the street, at 6580 Frankstown Ave. But with new equipment to buy and install, refurbishing costs, and the down payment, he and his wife still need about $250,000.

"[W]e're digging deep," says Smith, who recently mortgaged his house and put his 1976 Ford pick-up on Craigslist. Earlier this month, he began seeking out help from his customers.

Inspired by Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) networks, in which customers pay for a share of a farm's future production, Smith is offering customers a chance to "invest in this brewery."

The investment will come in the form of prepaid beer vouchers, which can be used to get the cash-equivalent value of East End beer and paraphernalia. In exchange for this investment -- which essentially amounts to a no-interest loan from customers -- East End is offering invitations to the ceremonial first tapping at the new location. Other beer-nerd perks include exclusive dibs on new bottle releases for three years; more details are available at www.eastendbrewing.com/node/926.

Smith hopes to raise about $100,000 from 100 beer-enthusiasts, each contributing $1,000 over two years.

Buying a voucher, Smith stresses, will not yield financial dividends. But you're not likely to be burned, either: The vouchers, which local Third Termite Press will print on "three-dimensional" debossed paper bills, will never expire. And if you haven't used them all at the end of three years, you can "cash out" and get your money back. 

You really have nothing to lose, Smith argues -- "unless you consider drinking losing money."

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