I've read a lot lately on the web and blogs about "Nanobreweries". Heck, I didn't even know *we* are a nanobrewery or that the term existed until about six months after we opened and people started calling us just that. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was an insult or a compliment. Now I know that there is real movement out there, all across the US, of very small community-based breweries that make beer in tiny batches for their very local customers. What is 'Nano'?Most people think the range is generally 10 gallons to 3 barrels - a barrel is an old English measure of beer and is 31 gallons, but its the industry standard for volume.
Yes, there are the logistics and they are what will make or break your business. Like licensing, debt, cost of goods, sales price, volume of production and all that necessary but essential business work like marketing, sales, distribution, taxes, and so on. But I digress. The point is that if you make a quality beer it will sell itself. Nano or community-based breweries have a very engaging and local story that connects them to their customers and to retail and draft accounts. Our experience has been that people are willing to pay a lot more for a quality ‘local’ beer, one you have to come here to central Vermont to try or buy, and that they are willing to travel from all over to find us!
I brew two 1bbl batches each week and bottle about 1/3 and the rest goes into 5 gallon kegs for our draft accounts. We have five draft locations, one retail store (where 8+ cases sells out every week), plus I crank out a bit more into bottles for special events and farmers markets (where in VT you can sample and sell wine and beer directly as a manufacturer). In VT, you can self-distribute through a separate, licensed wholesaler (read: costs more but well worth it). Its just enough that I can manage the brewing and distribution all myself, with support (especially on the family front) from my amazing wife. We’re having a blast along with way, have garnered a really great following, and are poised to grow with a long list of accounts waiting to order the beer once we do. The lesson for me is to follow your dreams with a well thought-out, researched (and slightly crazy) plan AND make sure you put your quality of life measures first (how do you want to spend your time?). As my great friend Jeff “Sparks” Bercuvitz puts it – create yourself a “good life index” where you list, categorize, and prioritize all the “INGS” of your life (being with family, brewing, sleeping, etc.). If you can plan your life around those priorities AND open a nano brewery at the same time…..man, you’ve made it to beer nirvana!
Cheers! – Sean Lawson, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Vermont