What the heck is a nano brewery?

SACRAMENTO - Got a garage, brew kettle and a knack with hops and malt? Maybe you should consider opening a nano brewery. Of course it's not that simple, but with an unyielding work ethic, willingness to sacrificeall free time, a passion for beer, anda chunk ofstartup capital, small-scale brewers across the country are living out their dreams of brewing beer for a living.

Here in Sacramento, we're seeing the first seedlings of the nano-brewery growth flowering in beer-fertile soils nationwide. But what exactly is a nano brewery?

Website craftbeer.comloosely describes a nano breweryas a commercial brewery that intentionally keeps their supply and distribution range very small.

Ken Anthony, owner, brewer, bartender, foreman and designer of soon-to-openDevice Brewing Co.in Sacramento, offers a more detailed description. "The definition of a nano brewery is when you are producing batches of beer at three barrels or less (one barrel of beer equals roughly 31 gallons). What we produce is 93 gallons of beer each batch. And that puts us right at the higher end of a nano brewery."

Brewing on a once-a-week production schedule, Device Brewing Co. will produce a little more than 4,400 gallons of beer in a year.

To put that into perspective, fellow Sacramento-area craft brewery Knee Deep Brewing Co. recently opened a new production brewery in Auburn featuring a 40-barrel brew system that will churn out more than 9,000 barrels (279,000 gallons) of beer annually. Think that's a lot? Anheuser Busch produces approximately 161 million barrels (5 billion gallons) over the course of 365 ΒΌ days, according to Wikipedia.

If those kind of numbers don't paint a clearenough picture of the extreme difference in size between a nano breweryand the big boys,one only has to step inside Device's 1,600 square-foot brewery and taproomon 14th Ave. Formerly serving as a deli, the space has been tastefully converted into a smalltasting area spotted with a few wine barrel tables and enough standing room for 100 or more patronsto look over thebarintoa brewing area no bigger than a food prep section.

But despitetheshortcomings in size when measured against hislarge-scale competitors,Anthonysays there are advantages to brewing on a Lilliputian scale.

"From a business and financial standpoint, it's less expensive of a buy in. With a nano brewery, if you play your cards right and do a lot of the work yourself, in our case almost all of it, you can get into a nano-brewery for $100,000 or even less depending on what kind of build out you do. If you're in the range of a 7-barrel brewery or a 15 barrel brewery, you're talking $500,000, $600,000. You get into a 30 barrel brewhouse and you're over a million."

VIDEO: An inside look at Device Brewing Co.

But Anthony says the advantages ceaseon the business side of the operation.

"From a brewing standpoint, there's not really any advantage. The same amount of effort goes into brewing a hundred gallons as a thousand gallons. It's just bigger equipment. What we've got here is a lot of labor for not very much beer. So there's not much of an advantage on our end to brewing this small."

According to Anthony, the real benefit of brewing on a nano scale resides in the glass of the consumer.

"They're getting something that is not widely distributed," he explains. "Our blast radius is pretty small. So as the consumer, you're getting something that really, you've got to come here to get. And if it's not here, it's down the street, or over in East Sac or Midtown. But it's not in San Francisco, it's not down in San Diego."

Thus far, Device Brewing's IPA (India Pale Ale), Imperial IPA, Triple IPA and Imperial Russian Stout have been exceptionally well-received by local publicans and the public alike, says Anthony.

"The craft tap rooms in the area love us because when they put one of our kegs on tap, it goes in a day. There's a lot of anticipation for when our beer comes out because we have such a limited amount of beer, that beer aficionados in the area are seeking it out. And when someone puts a post on Facebook that says, "hey it's on tap over here," then all of a sudden everyone's over there and they blow it out in a day. So it's fun because the bar owners know if they put it on, they're going to sell it."

Locals who have yet to get a taste won't have to wait long. Device Brewing Co. officially opens Friday, November 29, fittingly on the eve ofSmall Business Saturday.

VIDEO: Sacramento's first nano brewery opens shop

It will be a moment a long time coming for Anthony whogave upa career as a structural engineer about a year agoto pursue his passion for beer.

"I don't sleep as well as I used to. I don't get weekends off anymore. In fact, I don't get any days off anymore, but there's a tradeoff to everything. You can have a cushy nine-to-five job but you're living in someone else's show. It'snice to be on our own show."

By Paul Janes (Twitter:@News10_Paul)


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