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Nanobrewery - The Lessons I've Learned

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  • Gordie
    replied
    Just read this for the first time. I've been running my Nano, Healdsburg Beer Company, for over 4 years now and can't agree enough with the original poster's comments.

    Cheers, brother.


    Kevin

    Leave a comment:


  • Craig Dhonau
    replied
    Andrew,

    Thanks from a guy that emailed you a couple of years ago; nice job on the expansion! All you say makes perfect sense, yet I (and many others) persevere beyond all reason. Currently on my 4th or 5th location attempt to upgrade to a 7-10 bbl. The feds were ok with my nano, but not the state so I decided to go bigger. I still don't get it; why can't I just homebrew and be done with it? My wife thinks I need help.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Craig

    Leave a comment:


  • Tubbybrew
    replied
    I cannot agree more with every point that Andrew makes. Nanos are not profitable and anyone who thinks they are is kidding themselves. Can you build one that at least breaks even? Yes (depending upon your locale), but be prepared to work your tail off for zero money (seriously, I mean zero).

    three additional observations I would add;
    1. Take your timeline to getting it off the ground and double it. With all due respect for those that aspire to start one, you don't know what you are doing and it'll be a steep learning curve to build out a brewery, obtain all of the necessary permits and licensing, etc. And for those that do know what you are doing... you wouldn't be in the game of starting a nano in the first place because you already know better.

    2. Take your original estimate for buildout/startup costs and double it. (see same reasoning above).

    3. Don't romanticize the business. The actual time spent brewing is 20% of the job. The rest of your time will be spent either cleaning, packaging, distributing, selling, accounting or any other one of the myriad of business related activities that goes into running a small manufacturing business.

    That being said, I echo what Andrew said, it is an incredibly rewarding experience but when you boil it all down it is long hours and back breaking work. Be prepared for it and constantly be thinking ahead of what your goals are and move towards them because operating at the nano level is not a sustainable business in the long run.

    Christopher Tkach
    Idle Hands Craft Ales
    Everett, MA

    Leave a comment:


  • MikeRoy
    replied
    Great job Andrew, here's to you collecting a paycheck sooner rather than later.

    Leave a comment:


  • ChesterBrew
    replied
    Thanks for the reply, Andrew. By the photos I checked out on Facebook this morning, you're definitely doing a substantial upgrade!

    Leave a comment:


  • Larry Horwitz
    replied
    Best Post Ever

    +1 on hall of fame. Nice work

    Leave a comment:


  • ParishBrewingCo
    replied
    Originally posted by ChesterBrew

    Out of curiosity, what size of a system did you start out at?
    Kevin - we started with (and will still use for another 2 weeks) a 1.5 bbl electric brewhouse. I have a few 1.5 bbl fermenters and also 3 bbl fermenters - all plastic.

    Leave a comment:


  • callmetim
    replied
    I am nominating that post to the ProBrewer Hall of Fame. We're 2 years into our nano venture too and find nothing to disagree with. I have found that this is not "fun." Recess is fun - running your own brewery is rewarding.

    I would add that permitting wasn't that bad. be polite ask lots of questions of the government entities before you spend money.

    I would say my biggest learning experience is to be less accomodating. You need to know who you are and what your brewery is capable of doing. Getting all excited because people love your beer and can get you in here or there or do this festival or that event has to work in your plan. What good does it do us to have a national magazine review our beer if we aren't distributing nationally? Things like that.

    Anyways thanks for posting that.

    Leave a comment:


  • ChesterBrew
    replied
    Andrew,

    Great post. I'm wrestling with these issues right now, so your willingness to put this all down in writing is really appreciated.

    Out of curiosity, what size of a system did you start out at?

    I'd feel far more comfortable with nano if allowed to self-distribute...

    Kevin

    Leave a comment:


  • WitsEnd
    replied
    Thanks for the honest and up-front post.
    I've been researching this for many years and nano is the path I'm choosing. I could put together a great song and dance and pull in many investors and combine that with a hefty bank loan to start up at the 15 bbl level. That's not my style, however. I'm building a nano in a space that's suitable for the full production brewery. Yes, plastic fermenters, plastic kegs, home-built kettle and mash tun. Cheap. I should have about $25k into it when I've started. Hopefully (just hopefully), I can sell enough growlers and pints right from the brewery to break even without too many mid-week late-night brew sessions. I know I'm missing some details, but it looks like it'll work. Will it pay back the initial $25k? Absolutely not. Can I brew enough to pay myself to work there? Absolutely not.

    Is the end goal a 15 bbl brewhouse with matching shiny conical fermenters? I already have the trench drain planned out and brewhouse layout sketched up...

    Leave a comment:


  • YSBrewer
    replied
    Thank you so much for this! I need to hear as much of this as possible! In fact it's this kinda of info that made me decide to take the step up to 7 barrel...

    Leave a comment:


  • gungadin
    replied
    Thanks!

    Andrew,

    Thanks for taking the time out to share your experiences. It is very helpful information indeed. Best of luck as you grow out of the nano category.

    Scott Partin
    Knoxville, TN

    Leave a comment:


  • ParishBrewingCo
    started a topic Nanobrewery - The Lessons I've Learned

    Nanobrewery - The Lessons I've Learned

    I've operated Parish Brewing Co. for over 2 years now, furiously brewing a nano-amount of beer. I get several emails every week from aspiring nano-brewers from all over the country and they all have the same questions about my experiences, my custom equipment, and other general info about starting a tiny commercial brewery. If the probrewer community would humor me, I'd like to use this as a place to get some FAQs documented since I cannot answer all of the emails I get with the full respect and well thought-out answers they deserve. Hopefully this can help some of you daydreaming out there get some answers. Some of these answers may not be what you want to hear, but they are based in fact and my actual experience. I know I would have appreciated some of this info before I embarked upon the nanobrewery path.

    1.) Nanobreweries are not profitable. Well, at least if you have to sell at wholesale. The only way a nano can be in the black is if you can sell most or all of your production at full retail price. Even then the return will not justify spending the capital required to get it going. A nano will never, ever make enough profit to pay for organic growth of the brewery. Period.
    1)(b) On the other hand, a nano is a great vehicle to get the investment needed to finance a viable craft brewery. In my opinion, that is the only rational reason to go through all of the trouble to build and operate a nano. If you do not have a plan to finance a viable larger operation, don't build a nano. The nano can be used to show real revenue and cost structure in your market, and can be extrapolated to any project size from there.

    2.) You can use cheap equipment, like plastic fermenters, and make great beer. They will not last very long, and you have to be seriously anal-retentive about taking care of them and sanitization, but they work. I used some stainless drums found on craigslist for the brewhouse, etc. There are some creative ways to make brewing equipment in the 50 to 150 gal size range and don't be afraid to try something new. I mean, some of the finest brews in the world are fermented in a wood container. Think about that the next time you drool over that cherry, stainless jacketed conical fermenter that probably costs more than my entire brewhouse and cellar combined. Also, most of the money you will spend getting the nano going will not be on brewing equipment. The cost of kegs, walk-in cooler, operating capital, etc will all be likely more than 50% of your total startup cost.

    3.) Save your money for another year or two and buy something bigger. Seriously, this is the best advice I can give. If your beer is halfway decent, you will sell way more than you can ever produce on a nano system. You will bust ass like you've never busted ass before and it will still not be anywhere close to being enough beer. Trust me. If your beer is good you will need more than a nano. If your beer isn't good, you probably wouldn't be reading this. Simply put a nano produces a painfully small amount of beer. Save your money for another year or two, get something at least bigger than 7 bbl brew length, and then send me a case of your finest when you realize I was right.

    4.) Permitting is a bitch. There are lots of government agencies, and they all want a piece. Get used to it. You get no special treatment because you are a tiny, low cost operation. If they want you to put covers on your fluorescent lights, you better be ready to shell out for that manlift rental. Start talking to your respective agencies as early as possible. There is no best way to start, there is no road map. Every professional brewer on this forum has had to figure it out on their own, unfortunately. Go forth. Be brave. Approach your various govt agencies, be polite, and you will eventually get all of your permits and licenses in hand.

    5.) Operating a nano every day isn't very fun. It makes a really fun hobby a painful job - a 2nd job that you work on the evenings and weekends. I know it seems like fun now. You need to have some serious stamina to keep up the pace required to work a day job and also the nanobrewery. I have a huge amount of respect for any of the other nano owners out there who have made it work. They will never get the credit they deserve from most of the craft brewing community for the pain and sacrifice it takes. Just because its a small brewery doesn't mean its any less work than a larger version. I only recently quit my day job to focus on our new large brewery, but until then I worked every weekend for over 2 years. Think about that for a minute. No more fishing. No Saints games. Countless hours of time lost with my toddler daughter and wonderful wife. Whatever you love to do beside brewing and drinking great craft beer, it will probably have to go on the back burner.

    6.) It is incredibly rewarding to brew for a living and to hear someone say they love your beer - and that's totally worth all of the bullshit noted above.

    Cheers!
    Last edited by ParishBrewingCo; 03-14-2012, 09:19 PM.
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