The Salt
1:56 am
Wed February 6, 2013

New Hampshire Cuts Red Tape To Put Nanobreweries On Tap

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 9:51 am

As beer drinkers demand increasingly obscure beers with ingredients like jalapenos or rhubarb, smaller and smaller breweries are stepping up to the plate. New Hampshire is one state helping these brewery startups get off the ground, with new laws that make it easier for small-scale breweries to obtain licenses and distribute their craft beers.

Among those benefiting: Nicole Carrier and her partner, Annette Lee, of North Hampton, N.H. A year and half ago, they were just enthusiastic home brewers. Now, they spend much of their time rinsing equipment and mixing ingredients at their brewery, Throwback. As in, a throwback to the days when communities were smaller, and all food was local food.

Carrier still works for IBM, while Lee left her job as an engineer to start the brewery. With two full-time employees, Carrier and Lee produce 360 gallons of beer a week. That's about what bigger craft breweries throw away.

"Annette is an engineer by her background, and we call it a 'Frankenbrewery' because we've found different pieces and she sort of engineered them together," Carrier says.

About 100 of these so-called nanobreweries have sprouted up across the country. But in many places, starting one can involve a lot of red tape, thanks in part to Prohibition-era liquor laws. New Hampshire is the first state to try to change that.

Despite pushback from big beverage manufacturers like Anheuser-Busch, the state has begun lowering the barrier to entry for people like Carrier and Lee. Today, seven nanobreweries are open in New Hampshire.

These tiny breweries are proliferating, but they may be hard to sustain.

"The thing about nanobreweries that's always a challenge is they run out of products," says Tom Brock Jr., who buys beer for an upscale national grocery franchise and stocks Throwback at his New Hampshire stores. He finds small breweries unreliable and worries the novelty that makes them trendy may ultimately make them unsustainable.

"A lot of folks will look at nanobreweries, and they're like, 'Well, I had all their lineup, and I'm going to go on to something new,' " Brock says.

If they're going stick around, he says, good nanobreweries may not stay "nano" for long.

And it's true that Carrier and Lee at Throwback will be moving to a bigger facility soon. But selling as much beer as possible to as many people as possible? That's just not their style. Carrier and Lee buy most of their ingredients within a 200-mile radius of coastal New Hampshire, and they want to limit their sales to within that radius, too.

"So if a lot of people around here are that thirsty, we'll get past a nanobrewery, but no, you won't find us in California, or even New York," Carrier says.

Throwback Brewery is in a warehouse park, far from any downtown. That doesn't stop five or six people from coming in to try a Chipotle Porter or Fennel Flower Stout on a Tuesday evening.

"It is really neat to be able to support the local farmers and keep business in New Hampshire, or local, within a couple states here," says customer John Straw, who buys a glass of beer and a jug to go every week.

Carrier says that while the locavore mission is probably good for business, she hopes the beer will speak for itself.

And next on the docket for Carrier and Lee? Opening a "Beer and Breakfast" on their farm across the street.

Emily Corwin is a reporter for StateImpact New Hampshire. StateImpact is a collaboration between NPR and member stations examining the effect of state policy on people's lives.

Copyright 2014 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.nhpr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It used to be that the secret to manufacturing was taking your production to scale; stop making small batches of your product and find a way to make lots of it - cheap. For some people making beer, the challenge today is to go small scale. Microbreweries are popular, quirky brands catering to local tastes.

And now, let's talk about an even smaller concept, the nanobrewery. These breweries made, for example, create beers spiked with rhubarb or jalapeno made for a very few discerning customers. There are about 100 of these nanobreweries around the nation. Turns out the challenge is staying small.

New Hampshire Public Radio's Emily Corwin reports.

EMILY CORWIN BYLINE: Nicole Carrier is standing between an applewood smoker and three five-foot tall chrome tanks.

NICOLE CARRIER: And we put Applewood on this side right here. And then we smoke the grains on this side over here.

BYLINE: A year and half ago, she and her partner Annette Lee were just enthusiastic home brewers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MACHINERY)

BYLINE: Now, they spend a lot of time rinsing out equipment and mixing up ingredients at their brewery, which is called Throwback. As in, a throwback to the days when communities were smaller and all food was local food. Call them farmers market types.

Nicole Carrier still works for IBM. Lee left her job as an engineer to start the place.

ANNETTE LEE: We call it a Frankenbrewery because we found some pieces and she sort of engineered them together.

BYLINE: Carrier and Lee have two full-time employees. They produce 360 gallons of beer a week. That's about what a bigger craft brewery throw away. But in a lot of places, starting a nanobrewery can involve a lot of red tape, thanks in part to prohibition era-liquor laws. New Hampshire is the first state to try to change that.

Despite pushback from big beverage manufacturers like Budweiser, the state has begun lowering the barrier to entry for people like Carrier and Lee. Today, seven nanobreweries are open here. But although these tiny breweries are proliferating, they may be hard to sustain.

TOM BROCK, JR.: The thing about nanobreweries that's always a challenge is they run out of products.

BYLINE: Tom Brock Jr. buys beer for an upscale national grocery franchise. He stocks Throwback at his New Hampshire stores. But he finds small breweries unreliable. And he worries the novelty that makes them trendy may ultimately make them unsustainable.

JR.: A lot of folks will look at nanobreweries and they're, like, well, I had all their lineup and I'm going to go on to something new.

BYLINE: If they're going to stick around, Brock says good nanobreweries may not stay nano for long. And it's true that Carrier and Lee at Throwback will be moving to a bigger facility soon. But selling as much beer as possible to as many people as possible? That's just not their style. See, Carrier and Lee buy most of their ingredients within a 200 mile radius of coastal New Hampshire. And they want to limit their sales within that radius too.

CARRIER: So if a lot of people around here are that thirsty, we'll get past a nanobrewery.

(LAUGHTER)

CARRIER: But we, you know, you won't see us in like, California or even New York.

BYLINE: Throwback Brewery is in a warehouse park, far from any downtown. But that doesn't stop five or six people from coming in to try a Chipotle Porter or Fennel Flower Stout on a Tuesday evening.

JOHN STRAW: Do you have an IPA?

CARRIER: Yeah, we have a red IPA and then we also...

BYLINE: John Straw buys a glass of beer and a jug to go every single week.

STRAW: It is really neat to be able to support the local farmers and keep business in New Hampshire or local, you know, within a couple states here.

BYLINE: Carrier says that while the locavore mission is probably good for business, she hopes the beer will speak for itself.

CARRIER: Do you like a particular style of beer?

BYLINE: I like hoppy beer.

CARRIER: Hoppy beer?

BYLINE: So she pours me a glass of beer.

Oh, it's delicious.

Next on the docket for Carrier and Lee: opening a beer and breakfast on their farm across the street.

For NPR News, I'm Emily Corwin in Concord, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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