Cheers! Breweries Hopping Up Perks With Yoga, Bikes and More

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By Carmen Castro-Pagan

American craft breweries may have found a way to compete against large brewers like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors to attract and retain the best talent in the industry: hopping up their employee benefits packages.

A number of breweries, including Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Co. and Odell Brewing Co., offer nontraditional employee benefits that could stand head to head with benefits typically found at technology startups. In addition to offering traditional benefits like medical insurance and retirement plans, these breweries are adding “extra” perks, such as on-site massages and medical clinics, acupuncture, yoga and Pilates classes, paid sabbaticals, cruiser bikes and even paid trips to Belgium.

These nontraditional benefits may be already a trend among smaller breweries, Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association told Bloomberg BNA. Smaller breweries may have less efficient operations than global companies and thus can’t offer quite the same salaries, so “many make up for this in terms of lifestyle, work-life balance and benefits,” Watson said.

Fresh Benefits

What tops the list as the most common benefit among the 50 largest craft breweries in the U.S.? Free beer, of course.

The main reason these companies offer nontraditional benefits is to attract and retain the best talent, Watson said. There are 5,000 breweries in the country, so keeping your best people can be a challenge, he said.

California-based Sierra Nevada offers its 1,102 employees a wide range of benefits that include health-oriented perks, on-site daycare, a case of beer with each paycheck, birthday cakes from a local bakery and a long service leave that translates to a four-week block of paid time off.

“The perks definitely make it an easier decision for candidates,” Debbie Gutman, Sierra Nevada’s human resources manager, told Bloomberg BNA. The benefits package gives current employees further incentive to envision a long-term career at the brewery, Gutman said.

New Belgium has a 93 percent employee retention rate, which it attributes in part to its offering of nontraditional benefits. “A lot has to do with the culture here and the quality of life within our community,” Jenny Briggs, New Belgium’s director of organizational development and human resources, told Bloomberg BNA.

Trips & Bikes?

Portland, Maine-based Allagash offers its workers a generous tuition reimbursement program and eight hours per year of paid volunteer time. It also provides its 115 employees with a trip to Belgium on their five-year anniversaries with the company.

The brewery has had “27 employees go to Belgium so far, with eight more on the docket for March 2017,” Celine Frueh, Allagash’s human resources director, told Bloomberg BNA. This is an incredible experience for the crew and everyone who comes back is effusive with excitement about the experience, Frueh said.

Colorado-based brewery New Belgium is very well known for its flagship beer Fat Tire. In honor of the company’s logo, the brewery offers a Fat Tire Cruiser bike to its 787 employees after their first-year anniversary. The brewery doesn’t stop there: on their the five-year anniversaries, employees are rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to Belgium.

“Some of our more nontraditional benefits, like the trip to Belgium, reflect our culture and desire to have a group of people who are passionate about our business and understand and appreciate our history and legacy,” New Belgium’s Briggs said.

Asked to share one special experience related to the benefits they offer, Briggs said that several years ago, a co-worker rode his single speed Fat Tire Cruiser bike in the multi-day RAGBRAI ride across Iowa—the largest bike touring event in the world, according to the event’s website.

Health-Related Perks

Some of these breweries are going the extra mile on their health-related benefits.

Allagash pays 100 percent of health-care premiums for all its employees and also contributes $675 to each person’s health savings account annually. Making beer is a physically demanding job and our employees give 100 percent at work every day, Allagash’s Frueh said. We want to cover all health-care premiums so that each person “has access to affordable health care and never postpones a doctor’s appointment because of finances,” Frueh said.

New Belgium also offers offers a health-care plan where it pays 100 percent of the employees’ premiums. “We simply want to make sure health care is available to each person and we mitigate the chance of people not electing coverage and then needing it at some point and not getting the care that they need,” Briggs said.

Sierra Nevada offers a free on-site medical clinic for employees and their families, on-site massage and acupuncture, yoga classes and healthy vending machines.

Asked why Sierra Nevada offers so many health-related benefits, Gutman said that “it’s the right thing to do.” As a family owned and operated company, “we aim to treat our employees like family.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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