Nanobreweries, from a legal standpoint, are still commercial breweries. Therefore, they have to go through federal and state licensing processes, get approval for labels, etc. in order to distribute their products. The work it takes to get all the approvals and permits may seem daunting for such a small output, but there is also relatively little capital investment. This allows brewers to take a "see how it goes" approach and grow organically. So, what are some of the aspects of planning a nanobrewery? Lets take a look . . .
full brewing sculptures. Hell, Sam Calagione started bring on a 10 gallon system when he founded Dogfish Head, and look how far they have come. The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting equipment is to make it as large and automated as possible, while still fitting in the budget. The amount of time it takes to brew 10 gallons versus 20 gallons is not that different, but it provides double the beer output. Anything that can be done to make the process smoother will pay dividends in the long run, especially if demand for the beer takes off.
Licenses and Permits - Given that a nanobrewery exists to sell beer, it does not qualify for the federal excise tax exemption offered to homebrewers by Section 5053(e) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). This means that nanobrewery owners must follow all regulations relating to brewing and must pay excise tax on the beer they produce. Additionally, any beer that is removed from the brewery for consumption must contain the government health warning statement and be properly labeled according to the provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (27 U.S.C 205). These regulations and all of the federal and state permits and paperwork can certainly be cumbersome, so aspiring nanobrewers should make sure to allot plenty of time to complete them.
Distribution is probably one of the biggest legal and operational huddles a nascent nanobrewery needs to overcome in order to make it. Many states have very specific rules on how beer can be distributed and some prevent self-distribution all together (i.e. three-tier systems). Researching the specific laws and regulations for the particular market is essential. Pulling in a third-party lawyer may increase the start-ups costs, but nothing can scuttle an operation like having inventory sitting around without being able to sell it.
Legal Issue Links
This type of market assessment and pre-planning can help the nanobrewer avoid all the effort to get the microbrewery going and have nowhere to sell the beer. Make sure to quantify each account's consumption rate and make sure the nanobrewer can meet the demand if it spikes. For example, if a particular bar takes a shine to the nanobrewery’s beer and starts moving it quickly, that nanobrewer better have the capacity to meet that demand, otherwise it is a missed opportunity.
Gaining the power of grassroots interest behind a nanobrewery’s beer can also be important. Distributors and vendors are much more likely to give time and shelf space to a product if customers are asking for it. Small beer festivals, interactions with homebrew clubs, and cozying up to craft beer writers all have the potential to build a fan base for a good product.
Further Information - The above information only scratches the surface of starting up a nanobrewery operation. Still interested in learning more? The links below are a great place to start.
Listings of Nanobreweries
Building a Nanobrewery
We’re all thinking/dreaming about doing it - if anyone out there has actually done it or is in the process of opening a nanobrewery, please let us know how it is going! Also, please let us know of any additional resources that others might find useful.