The renaissance sweeping the food world—you know, the shunning of large-scale, industrialized, global brands in favor of hyperlocal, small-scale, artisanal products—has claimed another beachhead in the “smaller is better” assault: beer.
Of course, microbreweries, which produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer annually, have already taken a big share of the market from national brands with their seasonal varieties and bold flavors. But even smaller local beer makers called “nanobreweries” are getting into the game with rare flavor profiles and unusual styles.
Nanobreweries by definition make less than 1,000 barrels of beer a year. Some, including Seattle-based Two Beers Brewing Co. and Schooner Exact Brewing Co., have already outgrown the category to become microbreweries. Their success has encouraged a new wave of beer enthusiasts to pursue their dreams. One is Jim Jamison of Foggy Noggin Brewing in Bothell. After years of writing about beer and brewing beer at home, Jamison opened a brewery that specializes in English-style ales. He operates out of a building in his backyard and uses his garage as a tasting room. With more than 20 locations selling his hand-delivered beer, Jamison says the brewery now has positive cash flow.
Unlike Jamison, who likes his brewery’s current size, Cody Morris of Seattle’s Epic Ales recently launched plans for an expansion that will double his SoDo space and quadruple production. His beers, designed for pairing with food, incorporate unexpected ingredients, such as spearmint, shiitake mushrooms and coffee.
Meanwhile, Kevin Klein opened Seattle’s NW Peaks Brewery last fall. Customers can subscribe to his beers as they would a community-supported agriculture program for a specified period (six months, 12 months, etc.). They received a new growler (half-gallon) of beer each month for $11. Though he primarily sells in Ballard, Klein hopes to expand throughout the city.
As more Washingtonians look to support local products, the nanobrewery market seems poised for continued growth. Cheers to that.