It often starts with a single batch of homebrewed beer. Your friends like drinking the bitter IPA, or the roasty stout. More beer is brewed. More accolades. "You should start a brewery," someone suggests, planting a seed inside your hobbyist head: Could this be a career?
Taking the professional leap, however, is not so simple. Costs and licensing fees to open a brewery can easily runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. The loans may be crippling. That's why aspiring brewers are starting to think small.
These days, hopped-up entrepreneurs are increasingly opening pint-size nanobreweries. What constitutes a nano? The cutoff point is debatable, but one measuring stick is that nanobreweries make beer on a three-barrel system or smaller. That's less than 93 gallons at a time, a minuscule amount that allows brewers to experiment, take creative risks and see what sticks. And according to San Diego's Hess Brewing, which has kept a running tab of nanobreweries, nearly 100 nanos currently exist, with more than 50 in planning stages.
Now, running a nanobrewery is still not easy work. Hours are long. Margins are thin. Help is scant. But today's nanobrewery could easily be tomorrow's next big thing. Here are 10 of our favorite nanobreweries across the nation.