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.
“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.
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).
From Jeff Lennon: Why did you choose the brewpub or production brewery model? What factors led to that decision?
- The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery by Dick Cantwell.
Check out the entire list of recommended books, click here.
An upcoming beer style:
- Kelly Brew Pub, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- Paul Farnsworth, brewery consultant.
- Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Food Network.
- Marble Brewery, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- Create Your Business Plan, including a step-by-step tool, U.S. Small Business Administration.
You can reach Ken Carson Jr. and Nexus Brewery at:
- Facebook: nexusbrewery
- Twitter: Nexusbrewery
- Instagram: nexusbrewery
- Untappd: NexusBrewery
Download a free audiobook.
Help keep MicroBrewr on the air. CLICK HERE for ways you can help.