Craft beer is quickly becoming a trending subject in online and traditional newsprint, complete with awful beer puns. Most of the articles I’ve read recently tend frame craft brewers in the Great American Entrepreneurial Tradition.® This article in Slate is no different, except how it introduced me to the term nano-brewing.
If a micro-brewery is already, well, micro: How small does a nano-brewery have to be? As the Slate article points out, there’s no real definition-not even from the government. What is certain is that nano-brewing is small-scale– small enough to fit in your garage small.
What makes nano-brewing so attractive to home-brewers because it offers a tantalizing glimpse at selling their hobby products commercially.
However, nano-brewing isn’t all free beer and fun. The reality consists of long hours and back-breaking labor just to hope to one day break-even.
But does it have to?
Countering the wisdom of countless other brewers, 25-year-old Jake Endres founded Crooked Run Brewing in Virginia with a business plan, he claimed, would leave him in the black despite the small-scale of his operation.
So why is Crooked Run Brewing different from other nanos? Endres reckons his location in Loudoun county is “the best in the country” due to its already well-established wine trail and wealthy inhabitants. But despite having a great location, no brewery (regardless of size) could exist without funding. Typically, nanos would be funded by friends and family. But Endres’ plan was a little different; he used his savings combined with a bank loan to get the ball rolling. He then started a well-organized and successful KickStarter Campaign to raise some additional revenue.
I was taken aback by his novel approach of raising funds, using a mix of new technology and old-school entrepreneurialism. Could Endres’ business plan be the future for nano-breweries and other small craft-entrepreneurs alike? I caught up with him in-between his busy work schedule to find out:
Hi Jake! How’s the operation going so far? Have your original estimates concerning your overheads remained?
It’s a little early to say, but I don’t think much is going to change.
I just want to talk a little about your financing, as I can see your business plan helping out a lot of home brewers who are considering making the leap to the pros.You mention how you got a loan, which many nano-breweries fail to get. What steps did you take to ensure that you got approved? The loan process took months and was extremely arduous. No one is lending anyone any money right now. I think it’s harder than the brewery license application. Keep persisting and you will get it.
You already had your location and some of the brewing equipment sorted out before your Kickstarter, do you think this was the major factor for your Kickstarter succeeding?
Yes, definitely. It shows you are serious about brewing. I was always set on having that before I started the Kickstarter.
How important was your Kickstarter campaign? What sort of people donated?
My Kickstarter helped me raise a portion of my start-up cash, and a loan is covering the rest. The Kickstarter was a really great experience and I still interact regularly with my backers. A very diverse group of people donated. Most are from the area. A lot of people had never met me before, and hopefully I will get a chance to meet them all at some point.
Do you think you’ll have to have to run another KickStarter again in the future?
No, I don’t think so, at least not for Crooked Run. It was a great experience, though.
Now, let’s talk about your beer. The fact you grow a bunch of your own ingredients or partner with locals who grow, sets you apart from other breweries. How does growing your own stuff affect the taste of the final product?
You have to understand that I don’t grow anywhere close to 100% of my ingredients. There are a few breweries that do this for certain beers, and even one in Belgium that manages to for all their beers, and it’s a cool idea, but I’m not at that stage and not sure I ever will be. I grow hops and berries and a few other things. When I want to do a fresh hop beer or use some berries in something (like my sour brown or dark saison), I pick what I need. That is possible at this scale, and I don’t over-order anything. It’s all fresh. I can leave it on the vine until I use it.
Your Seek Truth (a Belgian tripel aged in Catoctin Creek pear brandy barrels) sounds absolutely incredible, and is a really creative spin on a traditional style. Is there anyway anyone in Texas can get ahold of it? Unfortunately not at this time. It is going to be a while until I can distribute, but the first time I go to Texas to open an account, you can have a bottle on me!
Thanks for taking to the time to chat with me, and us at CWHighlights wish you the best with Crooked Run Brewing! Thanks, cheers!
You can check out Jake and Crooked Run Brewing’s progress on their Facebook page or alternately their highly informative blog.
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