MicroBrewr 090: State of the podcast.

MicroBrewr 090: State of the podcast


Welcome to MicroBrewr podcast. Where we talk about everything craft beer related, but especially for if want to start your own microbrewery or take your existing brewery to the next level.

As usual, I’m Nathan Pierce, the host of MicroBrewr Podcast.

So I just want to give you a short update today. This is going to be kind of a “state of the podcast” address to let you know some recent developments in my life that could potentially affect the future of MicroBrewr.

So I just want to be transparent and honest and let you know what to expect.

This is going to be just a short review of the past year for MicroBrewr and also an update of my plans to start a brewery, because some people ask about that. Myself wanting to start a brewery, has sort of become the premise of a lot of MicroBrewr, so I’ll talk briefly about that.

MicroBrewr in 2015

Before we get to that, let’s sort of recap the last year of MicroBrewr. I want to use this time and sort of step back to reflect and see what sorts of lessons we have gotten from the last year of learning how to start a brewery.

At the end of 2014, on New Year’s Even we had a similar episode, the year in review episode. It was a good time to reflect and project on the future at the time of MicroBrewr. That was episode 43 of the podcast, I had done 30 episodes since taking over for MicroBrewr founder Joe Shelerud. Now this is episode 90, so we’ve done 47 episodes since then.

We started off the year with episodes of MicroBrewr Podcast organized sort of in series. We had series on:

Among these series we had other interviews about

So we’ve learned a ton of great info. Lots of things just never would have occurred to me.

The sense of community in the craft beer industry is really prolific and prevalent. Community really is exemplified the most when the business is organized as a cooperative. There a few ways that can happen, like a consumer co-op or a worker owned co-op, but either way, it’s all about people working together to help everyone out. Costs as well as profits are spread out more evenly, everyone contributes and everyone has a sense of ownership and pride. So it really brings out the best work, the best product quality, and the most benefits for a larger number of people.

Anyway, it was really cool to see how much the co-op movement is growing within craft beer. Just through the course of this past year, there are a lot more co-op breweries starting all over the country.

Another thing I have learned is that cider is really cool! We started the gluten-free series with Bard’s Tale Beer Company, but then we went into cider and talked with Common Cider Company, 101 Cider House and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. Some of the stats we heard about the growth of cider, even just that cider was way more popular than beer in the U.S. before Prohibition, is pretty cool. The growth alone, from a business standpoint, makes you gotta look. But something that stands out the most for me is how cider is sort of closer to a natural product, kind of the way wine is viewed in that regard, but cider attracts the cool, open-minded, experimental people of the craft beer world. So it’s like the best of both things. And that’s really attractive to me. The gluten-free aspect is a bonus because some people in my life are allergic to gluten. I can eat gluten, but it’s kind of a bummer to think they can’t enjoy most beers that I could have.

Anyway, we’ve learned so much this year. It’s so rewarding to receive emails from literally around the world telling me how much you have learned from the podcast and the blog, telling me your cool stories of starting your own brewery, or just thanking me for doing this.

I do put in a lot of time on MicroBrewr. Maybe someone else could do it more efficiently, I didn’t realize when I took this on that I was getting into the whole blogging world. Wow, what an eye-opening experience that has been.

There’s a whole segment of the population with online journals or full-on internet media outlets. Some people do it for fun on the side, some people make an ok living at it by itself. Believe it or not, some people are bringing in very lucrative incomes from blogging and podcasts and such. I am not one of those people.

With as many hours as I put in, MicroBrewr does make some money. It’s a little bit more than the expenses of just keeping it online.

MicroBrewr in 2016

So, this is where I’m going with that, I did get a job. It is not a job in the craft beer industry. It is a full-time job. I will be paid a good wage and I won’t descend into oblivion of despair.

I signed an offer letter with the City of San Francisco. I’ll be doing grants work, similar to what I was doing at my last job, where I worked for 7 years, so that’s where I’m most skilled in the workforce. And it feels really good to be gainfully employed again, and especially putting my skills to work, even though I haven’t yet started working. Hopefully by the time you hear this, I’ll be filling out the paperwork, going through orientation and all that stuff. I’m eager to do my best work and give them all I can to make the City of San Francisco an even better place. It’s a 3-year position and who knows, maybe continue after that.

I’m excited—and a little intimidated—to be moving to San Francisco. I’ve never lived in a big city before. It’s fun there. It’s diverse. It’s exciting. There are a lot of breweries, and cideries, and even a few distilleries. Not to mention the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge and lots of bike lanes all these exciting things.

So please wish me luck, wish me well. I don’t know exactly when or if ever I’ll be able to start a brewery. Maybe if I don’t get to continue on with the City after 3 years, I’ll get to open a cidery then. Or maybe I’ll keep working for the City of San Francisco and open a brewery on my spare time like Marta Jankowska from ChuckAlek Independent Brewers. In the meantime, I have to give my employer my best work and this is my priority.

So this means, I’m seriously wondering how I’ll be able to keep MicroBrewr going.

The whole point of MicroBrewr was to learn how to start a brewery. And I learned some things.

If 2014 was the year of the nanobrewery for me, 2015 was the year of cider for me.

Before I started doing MicroBrewr Podcast, talking to brewers, brewery owners, and other experts from the craft beer industry every week, I was not open to a nanobrewery as a business model. I just thought it wasn’t profitable. But now I’ve talked to enough people who are making profits, that now I see it can be a good way to get off the ground, maybe just keep being a neighborhood brewery thing, but hopefully a stepping stone to larger things.

I also wasn’t open to cider. I thought it was too small of a niche, kind of a novelty, and just not that interesting. Now I see that the segment is growing explosively, and compared to other countries the U.S. has a ton of growth potential. Even just looking at where the U.S. was before prohibition, it looks like the U.S. cider market is not something to ignore. And people are doing some interesting things with cider, being really creative with it, bringing back some really neat recipes and fruits that almost disappeared and even doing brand new stuff that has never been done before with cider.

So if I have to stop producing new content on MicroBrewr, I hope I’ve learned enough to start a brewery—after 90 episodes I hope I’ve learned enough! At some point I have to stop learning and start doing. Hopefully there’s enough content to help you open the brewery of your dreams—maybe sooner than I. I hear from people who just found the podcast and they’re burning through an episode every day. They don’t have to wait a week for a new episode to come out like me and you who have caught up through the current ones.

Ok so where were we?

MicroBrewr in the future

I want to keep doing MicroBrewr, I really do. I don’t want to let you down. It’s a lot of fun. If the episodes don’t come out on time, every Tuesday as they have been going, well, you know why. Work is my priority going forward.

Maybe I can try and find some help to take some of the tasks and make it easier to keep going. I don’t know, it’s a whole new world for me. I’m going back to work full-time for the first time in 2 1/2 years. And I’m moving to the big city and all of that. it’s going to be a huge adjustment in lots of ways.

I just looked back at that year in review episode, from New Year’s Eve last year, and I saw that I was looking for jobs all over, preferably a job in craft beer, but even a job in anything. And now I’ve got that. So we’re moving forward.

We’ll see what the future holds. Start your breweries, send me emails, I will live vicariously through you! We will drink good beer! Life will be good!


Image showing San Francisco. by Kathryn, on flickr (CC BY 2.0) was modified from its original state.

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MicroBrewr 089: Make whiskey from high-quality craft beer with Seven Stills of SF

MicroBrewr 089: Make whiskey from high-quality craft beer

Over a few beers, Tim Obert’s friend from college, Clint, told him that whiskey is actually made from cheap beer. They got to thinking, why not make whiskey from high-quality craft beer? Thus was born Seven Stills of SF, in San Francisco, California.

“I wish I would’ve taken on investment sooner.” [Tweet This]


Whiskey is a distilled spirit made from the fermented mash of usually malted grain, like beer. At first Tim and Clint were homebrewing in the backyard of Clint’s parent’s home, and “distilling that out, not really with the intention of starting a company, but just to see what happens.”

“Distilling,” says Tim, “is a hundred times simpler than brewing.”

To make whiskey from beer, they increase the temperature of beer to evaporate ethanol. The gaseous ethanol is then cooled to condense it back into a liquid. Different temperatures and different points in the process evaporate different material and different quality flavor.

“After a while,” recalls Tim, “Clint and I ended up having 30 different whiskeys and they were totally unique and were all, in my opinion, outstanding.”

“Everything that I had researched said that the base beer doesn’t have an impact on the flavor of the whiskey, which we’ve realized is just completely untrue. We can distill something like a chocolate oatmeal stout for instance, versus and IPA and there is no way that you could not tell the difference,” Tim laughs. “They’re completely different whiskeys.”

RELATED: MicroBrewr 047: A forty-year career at the epicenter of craft beer

Clint contributed the money he had saved for grad school, Tim pitched in a portion of his life savings, and they started Seven Stills of SF. For 2 years, they had a contract brewery make the beer. Then they had a contract distillery use the craft beer to make whiskey.

Seven Stills of SF currently produces about 120 cases of whiskey per month. They’re trying to increase production by 8 times.

They will be able to do it, now that they have their own 15-BBL brewhouse with fermenters and bright tanks. And they recently bought the largest still in San Francisco, a 300-gallon pot still.

They also have an entirely other line of vodka and bitters. Whereas whiskey is made from various grains, vodka is made from corn. Most of their bitters are made from vodka.

“Just for consistency sake, it makes sense to keep the 2 separate,” says Tim. “That’s part of the reason we hired different designers to work on the [labels on the] bottles.”

With so much expansion and growth, Tim says one thing he wishes he would have done differently was taken on investors sooner.

RELATED: MicroBrewr 067: How to find investors for a brewery

“We’ve been trying to grow off of just what we put into the company organically for the last 2 years, and it’s just painfully slow.”

Getting investors urged Seven Stills of SF to:

  • Develop a business plan
  • Calculate budgets
  • Get organized
  • Get something bigger off the ground

Part of having investors is putting together an advisory board. A formal advisory board is a set of people to whom you can seek advice on the business. Tim recommends finding experts in different areas such as:

  • Banking
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Social media

“I definitely wouldn’t recommend giving up too much equity right off the bat,” advises Tim, “but give them something, and incentive instead of just getting counsel from them.”

“Just kind of building a team you can go and ask questions about when you have something come up. Because, I mean, it’s kind of stupid to keep reinventing the wheel with all this stuff.”

Brewery specs:

Kettle size: 15 BBL.

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

Size and quantity of bright tanks: 2, 15-BBL bright tanks.

Annual brewing capacity/last year’s production: 3,120 BBL/year of beer. 4,836 gallons/year of whiskey.

Square footage: 4,400 sq. ft.

Years in operation: 2 years (opened August 2013).

Listener question:

From Jimmy Batte: What’s the best advice you have been given or have to give since operating a brewery?

Can’t-go-without tool:

Pallet jack.

Book recommendation:

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:

Craft beer whiskey

Other resources:

You can reach Tim Obert and Seven Stills of SF at:


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Support MicroBrewr

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

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MicroBrewr 088: A brewing pedigree from Kansas to Texas with BrainDead Brewing

MicroBrewr 088: A brewing pedigree from Kansas to Texas

Andrew Huerter comes from a family of brewers. His parents were founding members of the Kansas City Beer Meisters homebrew club and his dad won a blue ribbon for one of his beers. Now Drew is following in their footsteps. He worked at a handful of breweries and before helping put together BrainDead Brewing in Dallas, Texas.

“Find a way into an operating brewery.” [Tweet This]


Some of the audio was lost due to technical difficulties with the call. Here are notes from the audio podcast and the parts that got left out.

One of the biggest difficulties was the city permitting processes. The city was concerned about the explosive hazards of grain dust.

BrainDead Brewing was required to submit a certified engineer’s report verifying that the explosive hazard was below the threshold.

Just a few years ago in 2011, there were only 3 breweries in North Texas. Now there are 40, and just 2 independent brewpubs in Dallas-Fort Worth area, says Drew. Perhaps the city is experiencing growing pains from and industry that has grown a lot in a very short time.

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

Drew emphasizes the important of details when budgeting for your startup brewery. His biggest mistake was missing a line item on the budget.

Although they had budgeted for the purchase of a glycol chiller, they forgot to include installation costs. That amounted to a $50,000 mistake.

On the other hand, the best idea was to start out with a focus on making ales. It’s a proven model, says Drew, but these days it’s done often. Drew says ales are easy drinking and really approachable, so BrainDead Brewing could sell a lot of them to establish themself in the market.

Listener question:

If you could ask one question to every brewer or brewery owner, what would you ask? Let me know.

Can’t-go-without tool:

1.5-hp single phase pump by CPE Systems Inc.

Book recommendation:

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

Your Free Audio Book

An upcoming beer style:


Other resources:

You can reach Drew Huerter and BrainDead Brewing at:



Support MicroBrewr

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

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher