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 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:



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Support MicroBrewr

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

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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:


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“Fast, reliable, affordable, web hosting.”


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MicroBrewr 083: Market branding for a cider company with Common Cider Company.

MicroBrewr 083: Market branding for a cider company

Fran Toves’ son challenged her to enter cider into the homebrew competition. After her 3 entries made it to the top 10, she figured it time to take the product to market and started Common Cider Company in Drytown, California.

“There is no need to start a cider company with a million dollars.” [Tweet This]


Cider is not brewed the way beer is made, but similar fermentation tanks and bright tanks are used for making cider as making beer. After the initial attention at the homebrew competition, Common Cider Company started with a 400-gallon (13-BBL) test batch that got picked up by a distributor. They grew to 30,000-gallon (1,000-BBL) batches within a couple years.

Whereas a cidery or a cider house presses the fruit themselves to make juice, a cider company buys the juice pre-squeezed. A cider usually has a base of apple juice, but it can start with other fruits. A perry is made from pear juice.

“Cider as a base,” says Fran, “is a great platform to be able to introduce new flavors.”

Fran’s background in product development for the organic food industry is helping her with Common Cider Company. She emphasizes the importance of branding.

Fran says a small company can easily spend $50,000 to $100,000 on high-quality branding design for all promotional materials. With such a significant investment, it is very important to consider your message and what your company is about. If you want to take more time to learn about your customers and find your voice in the market place, just get simple logo at first. Then budget up to $100,000 for a re-branding.

That’s the route Fran planned for Common Cider Company. “I wanted to spend some time with our customers an just spend some time in the marketplace,” she says. “before investing in the brand.”

Sample Cider Packaging

Common Cider Company packaging cans Common Cider Company packaging cans 4-pack Common Cider Company packaging bottle Common Cider Company packaging bottle

They’re keeping a logo element from the original design scheme and hiring a branding firm to re-design their message. The results have been spectacular and you can expect to see more on store shelves soon!

Fran also has tips for the today’s listener question about budgeting and profit projections:

  • Decide where you are and where you want to be.
  • Put a budget for every core area including, branding, legal fees, sales staff, materials, and all other details.
  • Decide what you can spend on each category of your budget.
  • Use checklists so you don’t miss details.

“Your suppliers will give you pretty good information as far as what your cost of juice is and your yeast and any other adjuncts that you want to add to your product,” Fran suggests. “And that goes from your raw material to your packaging.”

As for projecting profits, Fran always advises starting with small batches. She suggests 500-gallon batches or 1,000-gallon batches at the most. Any larger, and you’ll have too much money tied up in product and it will take too long to sell.

After you sell a few batches to earn some money and build demand, then you start doing larger batches.

“It’s important to start small,” Fran advises. “Just like any business, you’ve gotta kind of walk before you can run.”

Listener question:

From Texas Rüegg: Where  do you find real accurate numbers to estimate cost of operation? I keep building spreadsheets with hundreds of calculations, but at best they are just guesses. I want to be conservative with my numbers and be sure that even the worst case will actually make money. So where do you find real data?

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:

Dry ciders

Other resources:

You can reach Fran Toves and Common Cider Company at:



Download a free audiobook.

Audible. Download a free audiobook.

Support MicroBrewr

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

Subscribe on iTunes             Listen to Stitcher