Full Sail Brewing of Hood River, OR has always been proudly independent. Read the labels: “47 Employee Owners.” That might change if the current vote passes. Today votes are being tallied to determine if a the brewery will merge with a San Francisco based investment firm called Encore Consumer Capital. The investment firm is also teaming up with a group of investors that call themselves Oregon Craft Brewers Co.

From the article in AllAboutBeer.com

“If we have an offer that’s this good, we really have to take it to our employees to vote on it,” said Firmat in a telephone conversation this afternoon with All About Beer Magazine. The terms of the offer were not disclosed.

In a letter to shareholders, Firmat and Emmerson, said the “partnership ensures the value of our culture, our commitment to quality, our brands, and most importantly, our people. It strengthens Full Sail for the future in this highly competitive marketplace and enables us to honor our financial commitments to our employees and keep our company independent.”

Firmat noted in an interview that the investors do not have a brewing background, so they will need the existing employees with their wide range of expertise to stay on and helm Full Sail. If the vote is successful, Firmat and Emmerson plan on staying at the brewery they founded in 1987.

Shareholders were given ballots earlier today and those votes will be tallied at the end of the month. If approved, the investors could take ownership by mid-March.

For the existing shareholders there will be a stock-option plan, but it will no longer be an ESOP company, but Firmat said it will enable employees to benefit along with the company as it continues to grow.

“Our new partners share our values and their expertise with high growth consumer brands will provide a strong platform for our future,” wrote Firmat and Emmerson. “We could not be more proud to deliver on the promise we made to our employees in 1999 while ensuring Full Sail will stay true to our core values in the future.”