MicroBrewr 087: Differentiate your brewpub with unique menu items with Nexus Brewery

MicroBrewr 087: Differentiate your brewpub with unique menu items

At 55 years old Ken Carson tried to get a job at a brewery, but nobody would hire him—even for volunteer. So with no brewing nor restaurant experience, he started Nexus Brewery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I fell in love with the concept of beer and community.” [Tweet This]


Ken did have some business experience: he was president of a small bank. He joined the bank in their first year and helped it grow from $7 million in assets to $150 million and 5 branches.

When Ken saw an ad for making a batch of beer at the local Kelly’s Brew Pub, he went and tried it for fun. He never knew someone could make their own beer. And he got the bug.

While working for the bank, Ken often traveled for work and always toured breweries in every city he went. After touring about 150 breweries, he though he wanted to do something different. So he cashed in the stock he had saved for retirement and convinced his wife to let him start a brewery.

RELATED: 61 Brewers Speak Out: What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting A Brewery

“So I had a good background in business,” says Ken, “but absolutely no experience in either one of these 2 businesses that I was getting into.”

Ken says there are 2 things anyone needs to start a brewery:

  • You need to know the numbers
  • You need to have good customer service

During his time at the bank, he had required hundreds of businesses to write business plans. Now he was on the other end, needing to write a business plan for his brewery. He used the online tools provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“When you’re thinking customer service, it’s to produce the best beer you can,” explains Ken. “And we’re trying our best to produce the best food that we can.”

One thing the SBA materials asked was how Ken would differentiate his business from the competition. And food was one way that Nexus Brewery is differentiating themselves.

“I started seeing new breweries opening. I said, ‘This is going to be a problem if all the breweries get up here and I’m not different, I’m just like everybody else.’ So I picked a different food and made it unique.”

Nexus Brewery has what they call “New Mexican soul food,” a blend of foods from their African American heritage with local flavors of New Mexico.

They started out with 10 items on the menu, and kept adding more as customers made requests and suggestions.

Ken said it’s working out really well. “It’s distinguished us from all the other breweries in town.” It’s also helpful that they are serving a type of food that that is not normally associated with brewing industry.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 7 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 7-BBL fermenters; 2, 15-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 7 Grundies; 6, 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 650 BBL.

Square footage: 2,500 sq. ft. for the brewery.

Years in operation: 4.5 years (opened May 2011).

Listener question:

From Jeff Lennon: Why did you choose the brewpub or production brewery model? What factors led to that decision?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Victorinox Swiss Army Super Tinker Pocket Knife.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Scottish Ale

Other resources:

You can reach Ken Carson Jr. and Nexus Brewery at:



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MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America with Wandering Aengus Ciderworks

MicroBrewr 086: The future of apple cider in America

Nick Gunn and his wife were working for her family’s winery. They had the idea to start growing apples for cider. One of the cideries to whom they were selling apples decided to close down and they offered to sell the business to Nick and his wife who moved Wandering Aengus Ciderworks to Salem, Oregon.

“Cider is a really exciting proposition for a lot of investors.” [Tweet This]


Now they have two brands of cider.

Wandering Aengus is the traditional brand of cider. The Wandering Aengus brand has ciders that are more astringent, more bitter, and higher in alcohol content. “For the wine drinkers, it’s something that’s interesting,” says Nick.

Anthem Cider is a lighter style for people who aren’t used to ciders. These are less acidic and have lower alcohol content. This brand is marketed toward to craft beer consumers. “Beer drinkers,” says Nick, “are much more adventurous and willing to try just about anything that’s out there.”

They package Anthem ciders mostly in kegs for sale on draft. The goal is to get the word out for distribution in smaller packaging. “It’s a pretty basic model a lot of people have used,” says Nick.

“Anthem is a little more on the adventurous side,” Nick describes. “And that’s also a part of marketing to people who like craft beer.”

In addition to straight apple cider, Anthem also has pear, cherry and hopped ciders. They’re do some progressive forays like gin and whiskey barrel-aged ciders, as well as ciders fermented with bee pollen.

In contrast, “Wandering Aengus is super traditional,” Nick says, “It’s just those apples fermented without anything else added to them. And those apples are so rare we don’t really want to mess with them in the first place, they kind of speak for themselves.”

Finding good, traditional cider apples is difficult, but Nick is pushing the market.

“Most of the old heirloom apples have been ripped out in favor for Granny Smith and other dessert apples,” he says. “We’re trying to get people to plant some newer [apple trees]. We’re trying to bring back some of the older, better flavored varieties.”

Nick’s favorite apple ciders are blends of sharp apples, bittersweet apples, and aromatic apples.

“You kind of want to blend in a little bit of sharp, a little bit of bitter, a little bit of aromatics,” Nick advises. “That’s a part of the art of cider making, is it’s a blending process. Because there’s not a lot of apples that just make a great cider straight up.”

Some of the high brix, high acidity apple varieties that they use are:

  • Golden Russet
  • Wickson Crab
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Calville Blanc d’Hiver

“These heirloom sharps… is a really [high] sweetness level and acidity is off the charts,” comments Nick.

But these sharp apples don’t have a lot of tannins. Bittersweet apples contribute tannins to the cider.

Some of the bittersweet apples they use for tannins are:

  • Muscat de Bernay
  • Muscadet de Dieppe
  • Yarlington Mill
  • Dabinett
  • Herefordshire Redstreak

“Those apples taste like crap!” exclaims Nick. “They really are horrible, because they have so much bitterness.”

“I’m being evangelical about planting cider apples. That’s really the future of really high quality cider in America.”

While Nick is evangelizing about high-quality, hand-crafted, traditional ciders, a different style of cider is gaining momentum across the country. Large industrial companies are making cider with additives and diluted with water.

While the product sells well on a large scale, it is expanding the overall market and demand for cider. As the larger brands reach into previously untapped markets, they create new spaces for all cider products.

“Their cider is a lot cheaper,” says Nick. “We could never compete on price because we’re using 100% juice. But what we can do is offer a different product. And maybe that’s a graduating step for the consumer.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 048: Package your beer cheap and easy with mobile canning

“The growth in some of these larger brands has just been astronomical because a lot of the place they’re putting cider there never even existed a cider in the first place.”

“Every single chain store, every 711, every place now has cider. Cider is on the lips of every one. It’s on TV now—it was never on TV before, like, 2 years ago.”

“Even if [cider] gets to 5 percent of the market, we will be gigantic,” Nick predicts. “Over in England, cider is around 20 percent of alcohol consumption. France is about 17 percent. So we have a long ways to go in America. We were just at 0.3 percent about 3 years ago and we’ve gotten to one percent now. So the climb now is just inevitable.”

There hasn’t been a lot of quality at quantity. And now that that is exists, distributors are staring to notice, buyers are noticing, the whole market place takes note.”

As overall demand for cider increases, and a wider variety of cider products becomes more popular, the cider companies are able make larger quantities at lower prices.

Nick’s strategy is to have meaningful impact in the markets where craft beer is already growing rapidly.

They are reaching to key cities such as:

  • Denver
  • Philadelphia
  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Portland

“You’re starting from ground zero, you can explode easily,” says Nick.

Yet, cider producers are finding that the industry needs to mature. Particularly, there is a need for more education in cider sales.

“Finding a distributor that understands cider is really difficult,” says Nick.

At the next CiderCON, the conference for the commercial cider industry to be held in February in Portland, Oregon, the United States Association of Cider Makers will unveil the first ever cider accreditation program. The multi-level program is designed to educate “distributors, servers and others who are interested in becoming trained experts on all things cider.”

As the cider market in America evolves, the industry adapts.

“It originally started out as sweet and fruity,” recalls Nick. “I like to call it ‘cheap and cheerful.’”

Now “cider varietals are being recognized, and the quality of cider they make.”

Nick foresees an increasing appreciation of drier ciders, and even higher quality cider apples. More cider will be made from heirloom sharps, cider will be fermented drier with higher alcohol content. There will be more barrel aged ciders, and ciders with more tannins. Ultimately terroir of cider will be recognized and appreciated.

Listener question:

From Daniel Frey: What accounting system do you use or do you recommend?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Cross-Flow filter, Pall Corporation.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

North American Heirloom Cider

Other resources:

You can reach Nick Gunn and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks at:

You can reach Anthem Cider at:



Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook. https://microbrewr.com/audible

Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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MicroBrewr 085: Starting a brewery is a full-time job with Martin House Brewing Company

MicroBrewr 085: Starting a brewery is a full-time job

Cody Martin worked in civil engineering and environmental engineering. After touring some breweries and seeing that they use familiar equipment, he asked his wife if he could start a brewery. She found work in Texas and he started Martin House Brewing Company in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Starting a brewery is a full-time job.” [Tweet This]


After they moved back to Texas, Cody worked full-time for 15 months to start his brewery.

“If you want to be a brewery in planning for 3 or 4 years,” he offers, “then go ahead and keep your job.”

In that time, he worked on his business plan, found partners and investors, introduced himself to local breweries, and work 20-30 hours per week for free in a local brewery.

Once the business plan was complete, they had 6 months allotted to finding investors and securing funding, and they got it done in only 6 weeks. They talked to anyone and everyone they could find or with whom they could make connections.

In the end, the owners with “skin in the game” had contributed approximately $60 thousand. Investors pitched in significantly more than that, he says. Approximately half of the capital came from friends and family, and about half came from other investors whom they had never previously met.

They were able to cut costs by doing the majority of the work themselves. “We literally built everything in this place ourself,” Cody remarks.

It helps that Cody is an engineer. They also called on old friends who gave them discount prices on skilled work.

Additionally, Cody says it very important to partner with people who compliment, rather than duplicate your own knowledge and skills.

“You need to make sure you have the team with the full talents of running a business,” Cody advises, “not just 3 brewers.”

Financially, it has worked well.

“We have zero debt,” says Cody, “so we were able to break even on that pretty quick. A few months in, we started paying ourselves a salary. And then our first full year of production, we were able to pay our investors back a little.”

Cody even had the opportunity to make a collaboration brew with one of his all-time favorite bands, Toadies.

In summary, Cody’s advice for starting a brewery:

  • Quit your job.
  • Have the support of your family.
  • Assemble a team with diverse skills.
  • Don’t buy a glycol chiller from China.

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 30 BBL.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 4, 30-BBL; 2, 60-BBL fermenters.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 1, 30-BBL; 1 60-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 6,000-BBL capacity. About 2,800 BBL last year.

Square footage: 9,000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 2.5 years (opened March 2013).

Listener question:

From Sean McKeown: Do you still have the same passion for beer after doing it as a job, at a commercial level?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Zip ties, duct tape, and Milwaukee 48-22-1901 Fastback Flip Open Utility Knife.

Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Sour beer

Other resources:

You can reach Cody Martine and Martin House Brewing Company at:



Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher

MicroBrewr 084: A healthy alcoholic beverage: hard cider with 101 Cider House.

MicroBrewr 084: A healthy alcoholic beverage: hard cider

As soon as Mark McTavish could acknowledge alcohol, he gravitated toward hard cider. Later, he attended beverage management school and opened a craft beer bar in Toronto, Canada. Now in the U.S., Mark owns a cider distribution company and 101 Cider House in Los Angeles, California.

“As a cider maker, you’re not really making anything. You’re more of a custodian to the beverage.” [Tweet This]


Mark had a long career in the fitness business, selling exercise equipment and helping gyms get started. He is very health conscious and this comes through in his hard cider.

101 Cider House focuses on a “healthy” alcoholic beverage. All of 101 Cider products are: raw, living, and probiotic.

Some attributes of what Mark calls a healthy hard cider:

  • Wild fermented
  • A living beverage, don’t kill the juice in the process
  • Not filtered
  • No added sulfites

The hard cider market is absolutely exploding, with 500% growth in the last 3 years. Besides the general growth, Mark is tapping the health foods sector.

“From step one,” reflects Mark, “I always wanted to make a healthy alcohol.”

“Here in Los Angeles,” he says, “people are very interested in their health foods. When it comes to alcohol, a lot of people tend to check their standards at the door.”

“We have to show our ingredients in our cider,” Mark says of the labels on the bottles. “Our biggest marketing tool is to show people that we are using 100% raw fruit and doing the natural process like we do.”

They don’t add any unnecessary or unexpected ingredients to the cider, not even yeast.

“Cider is like wine,” he says. “You can press the fruit naturally, let juices sit their and do its own thing with its indigenous yeasts, and it will tell you what it’s going to do with itself.

“And if you wait long enough, it will make something great.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: n/a.

Size and quantity of fermentation tanks: 8, 2000-gal (64-BBL) poly tanks; 6, 275-gal (9-BBL) poly tanks; 50, 55-gal (1.75-BBL) oak barrels.

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 0. Not required as we bottle-condition and keg-condition all product.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 50,000-gal capacity.

Square footage: 7000 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 10 months years (opened December 2014).

Listener question:

From Rob Lightner: Has your brewery turned out the way you thought it would? And if not, how is it different?

Can’t-go-without tool:


Book recommendation:

Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Hopped cider

Other resources:

You can reach Mark McTavish and 101 Cider House at:


InMotion Hosting

“Fast, reliable, affordable, web hosting.”


Support MicroBrewr

Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.

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How big should my brewery be?

How big should my brewery be?

How big should my brewery be? How many square feet do I need for a brewery? How large of a facility should I get? As the host of a podcast about how to start a brewery I have spoken with over 70 brewers, brewery owners, and other experts in the craft beer industry. So I often hear this question from listeners around the world.

Of course you need to consider a number of factors to determine the size of your brewery. For example:

  • Size of your brew system
  • Your annual production capacity
  • Barrels of beer you plan to brew each year

Just the business model plays a major role in deciding how many square feet you’ll need for your brewery.

  • Brewpub serving only on-site consumption
  • Nanobrewery with taproom and no distribution
  • Production brewery with complete bottling, canning, and kegging lines

As you could imagine, there is no one-size-fits-all size requirement. It’s a tough question to answer, but an important answer to find out.

If your brewery is too small, you’ll be crowded for space.

“We did not anticipate the need for more cold storage or bigger brewing system,” says Patty Elliot from Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City, Texas.

“Even though we have a big building, we don’t have a large area for Sean [the brewer] to store kegs in and we only have four serving tanks. So serving tanks have to get low enough that he could keg off, that it will fit in the keg storage area, so that he could brew another beer. So we’re constantly fighting the battle… and we’re desperately wanting to get more cold storage space.”

And if your brewery is too large, you waste precious money on the startup cost for square footage that won’t be used.

Yet, with craft beer’s explosive growth that doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon, you’ll likely be expanding operations not long after opening.

When MicroBrewr founder, Joe Shelerud asked 61 brewers in late 2013, “What do you wish you had known before starting your brewery?” nearly 20% of the responses were that they should have planned their expansion from the start.

“I would have built a larger infrastructure at the outset,” says Brett Tate from Dust Bowl Brewing Company. “We’ve expanded the operation and reached capacity production three times since we started brewing in 2009. We’ve now maximized what we can fit in the footprint of our current building… Our new site will, or course, have room to grow, so at least we’ve learned!”

Space requirements for a brewery vary greatly

If you read the books about starting a brewery and online beer forums, you can find magic formulas to tell you how big your brewery should be.

For example:

  • 1,000 square feet, per barrel of brewhouse running at capacity
  • 1 to 1.5 square feet, per barrels produced, per year

JVNW’s website has a lot of information and brochures with specifications and resource requirements. As a manufacturer of brewing equipment, they work with a lot of different breweries in a huge variety of configurations.

JVNW’s sizing recommendations are:

  • Complete brewery: 0.5 to 1 square feet, per barrel of yearly capacity
  • Sacked malt storage: 0.15 to 0.25 square feet, per barrel of yearly capacity

Again, a number of factors will affect the space requirements for your specific brewery and configuration. For example:

  • Size and number of vessels in the brewhouse
  • Size and number of fermentation vessels and bright tanks
  • How many batches you plan to do each week

Incidentally, JVNW says the average staff requirement is 0.75 staff per 1,000 barrels of yearly capacity. Whereas, Lakewood Brewing, the one who recommends 1,000 square feet per barrel of brewhouse, has 22 staff for about 10,000-15,000 barrel production. So about 1.76 staff for every 1,000 barrels—roughly double what JVNW recommends.

So my takeaway is just that the stats vary greatly.

Space requirements for breweries on MicroBrewr Podcast

To get a handle on exactly what the square footage requirement is for a small craft brewery, MicroBrewr Podcast listener, Akhilesh Pandey dug into the stats from the show notes.

Another podcast listener, Peter Stillmank from Stillmank Brewing Co. in Green Bay, Wisconsin, asked for these stats to get a better picture of our discussions in MicroBrewr Podcast. At episode 41, I started asking for specific statistics including: size of the brewhouse, number of vessels, annual capacity, and square footage.

For this exercise, we were concerned only with how many square feet are required for a small craft brewery.

So Akhilesh dug into the numbers and plotted them into a spreadsheet. He compared each brewery’s annual capacity to its square footage, and calculated the square footage per barrel of yearly capacity.

What were the results?

Well, we looked at the data from 20 different breweries from all over the U.S. plus one 1 in Ireland. (We had to leave out a few due to incomplete data.) Models include everything from a tiny nanobrewery in the basement of a hotel, all the way up to a large production brewery with international distribution, and everything in between. We’ve spoken with nanobreweries, brewpubs, and production packaging breweries.

If we take the total square footage for all breweries and divide it by the total yearly capacity of all breweries, it equals 0.8 square feet required per barrel of yearly capacity. This gives sort of an industry-wide efficiency, but it doesn’t really look at what each brewery is doing on an individual basis.

Craft beer is a young industry. It’s home to a wide variety of players with varying levels of experience, knowledge, and preferences. So the range of their space efficiency is extremely wide.

When we calculate the square footage per barrel of yearly capacity at each individual brewery, the maximum was 40 square feet, the minimum was 0.2 square feet, and the average (mean) was 4.6 square feet per barrel.

Square footage per barrel of yearly capacity at 20 craft breweries in the U.S.A. and Ireland:

Calculation method Square feet per yearly barrel production capacity
Maximum 40.0
Minimum 0.2
Average (mean) 4.6
Median 1.6
STD Dev. with 99% confidence 2.16
Range 39.8

That seemed kind of high. I thought maybe the average was being skewed by outliers.

So I checked the median. The median is 1.6 square feet per barrel of yearly capacity.

Median is often used to calculate skewed data sets. It sort of cancels out those outliers like the nanobrewery that uses a whopping 40 square feet per barrel produced, and the brewpub/production brewery that somehow blasts out a full barrel of beer for every 0.2 square feet they occupy.

Now, I’m not a mathematician, I don’t recall much from Statistics class. But Akhil has more insight to offer.

“The average the way you have it there,” he writes by email, “is not the right method because it does not eliminate the outlier.”

Akhil looked at the “standard deviation” (I remember that term from Statistics class) and found that those few data points that are just so far from the others, don’t really help us. They’re considered oddballs. By taking off the 3 outliers from the end, Akhil can get 99% confidence in his calculation.

With 99% confidence, we can guess that your brewery would need 2.16 square feet per barrel of yearly capacity.

So there you have it

How much space do you need for your brewery in planning or for your next expansion brewery?

First figure out how many barrels of beer you plan to be able to produce per year, your total capacity.

Then figure on needing about 2.16 square feet per barrel of yearly capacity.

Another way of looking at it, says Peter, “When you purchase your building, divide the square feet by 2.16 to figure out what the building’s [annual production] capacity is. When you reach this [production level] it will be time to move.”

Special thanks to longtime MicroBrewr Podcast listeners, Peter Stillmank and Akhilesh Pandey for your help on this post.

Image showing Blueprint by Will Scullin on flickr (CC BY 2.0) was modified from its orignal state.


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