Opening a production brewery can bankrupt even the world’s best beer maker. After tabulating the costs of securing space, equipment and licensing fees (not to mention shelling out dough for grains, hops, and payroll), the funds needed to fire up a brew kettle and fill kegs can cascade into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. Making beer is simple. Repaying the loan? That’s backbreaking — as is begging a penny-pinching bank to lend the required cash.
In recent years, however, crafty brewers have found a runaround to securing mountains of money. Instead of going big, aspiring brewers who are eager to turn pro have gone small — like, really small. They’re keeping their operations super-intimate by opening nanobreweries: a diminutive, do-it-yourself brewery typically run by a couple people on a bare-bones budget and operating on a tiny brewing system — usually three barrels or less. In layman’s terms, that’s about six kegs a batch.
But when it comes to great beer, size isn’t everything. In Oceanside, N.Y., Barrier Brewing (which recently won the TAP New York award for the state’s top brewery) turns out the bitter, full-bodied Ruthless Rye IPA. Across the country in Hillsboro, Ore., Ambacht Ales doses all its beers with Pacific Northwest honey, which adds an alluring sweetness. Not to be outdone, Vermont-based Lawson’s Finest Liquids has concocted the potent Maple Tripple, which is made with maple sap in lieu of water.
Clamoring for a taste? Well, unless you live nearby these nanobreweries, you likely won’t get to try their carbonated nectar. That may bum out gotta-try-it craft beer geeks, but consider the positives: By remaining hyper-local, the nanobreweries can distribute impeccably fresh beer that hasn’t traveled halfway across the country on a truck.
Here are 10 of our favorite nanobreweries worth keeping an eye on. Remember: Though they’re small now, these pint-size breweries may eventually grow up.