Nano Breweries Find Ways to get Beer Outside Taproom

Although starting on a nano system can be difficult to turn a profit, it can be a way to work toward the goal of growth. That means working on creativity, learning how to be consistent batch to batch, increasing its sales base and packaging.

For Waynesville, North Carolina’s BearWaters Brewing, starting as a nano was a way for the brewery to prove the business model. That’s how owner Kevin Sandefur sees it.

Getting to perfect a product, test the market and learn the ropes were what he said was some reasons why nanos should be started.

“Many of the costs of running a brewery are the same for a nano or a large brewery with much smaller product output,” he said. “The goal should be to migrate off the nano system within 12 to 24 months.”

BearWaters is moving up with plans to increase its output from its .5-barrel system that produced 200 bbls per year up to 3,000 bbls with a three-vessel system.


In Bothell, Washington, Foggy Noggin Brewing is headed up by Jim Jamison. Using a .5-bbl system with six .5-bbl conical fermenters and one Hungarian Oak fermenter, Foggy Noggin produced 120 bbls in 2015. Jamison said brew days are usually doubled or tripled up on to maximize efficiency.

Foggy Noggin sells a limited amount sixtel and half-barrel kegs to local tap accounts along with some limited bottling that is sold outside of our tasting room. Yet 80-90 percent of sales is in the 600 square foot production and tasting area.

“The reason we sell very little outside of our own tasting room is that … [there] is just not much beer left to sell in the market,” Jamison said.

Even with a low output, Sandefur said that BearWaters did occasionally produce 22-ounce bombers. Those actually helped with sales since the bottles tend to be higher-gravity products with higher margins. The upgraded system will allow for the brewery to expand its market with canning as well.

State laws also dictate what a nano brewery can do. For Foggy Noggin, being located on residential property limits the square footage of space Jamison can have for his commercial operation, which impacts his production.

Being in North Carolina, Sandefur said that the laws are pretty friendly for small breweries.

“We have been able to self distribute, and we have Pop the Cap which allows us to produce higher gravity beers that bring higher margins on limited release bottled products,” he said. “This is crucial for making revenue at key times during the year.”

Another money-making aspect that Sandefur pointed out was retail, yet he warned that wholesale accounts at the nano level should only be considered closer to ramping up production on a larger system.

Although putting all the effort into a 15-gallon scale can be frustrating at time and limit what can be done in terms of sales, Jamison added, “we can be creative on brewing unique beers and not worry about it since it will be a small production run.”

Sandefur added for brewers that are at the nano level to not lose sight of the reason they started the company.

“The work is long and hard hours week after week and can wear on a person,” he said. “Make sure you take the time to take time away from the business to regain clear perspective.”

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