It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, did you hear that our friend Tom is giving up his dream of opening a nano brewery?
He just sent me a text blaming it all on the government. Let me tell you this guy loves
everything about beer. It's his passion. Remember when he was home brewing? He had a
great setup in his garage and was brewing about 20 or so gallons a month. He was generous
with giving it away as we both well know and it was always a treat to drink. Then Tom
upgraded his system to a fully electronically controlled, semi-automatic three-tier brewery
capable of producing 10 gallon batches of beer. It looked like his dream was about to become
a reality. Then he tried to get a license.
Tom said it was the most harrowing experience he has ever had. I know we both told him not
to move to Philadelphia. PA is a horror with anything to do with beer. You can't even buy a
single six pack in that wacky place. Not only did he have to deal with the state he had to deal
with the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) which sent him about twenty
different forms. Even after a month of reading all that stuff he still was confused.
The city itself piled on by telling him he couldn't brew in the building he wanted to use.
According to Tom, the liquor board's standard reply to any question he asked was "you can't
And of course there are fees. Well, I do admit there were no fees for the TTB but the
Pennsylvania brewers' license cost over $1,500 and brand name registration was nearly $100
per beer. That's all a bit steep, don't you think. After all, profitability was not the driving force
behind his nano dream. It was mainly a passion to make the best possible beer and if he
made a profit more the better for it.
I hope Tom sticks it out but I'm glad he didn't give up his day job. Oh, if the governor of PA is
listening to this resident of the Big Apple, give Tom and all those other home brewers a break.
Let free enterprise be free. Don't worry you'll get your tax money and the rest of us will get
some great tasting beer.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
I hope Tom stays with it too. He does make great beer. But let me clear a few things up first. In
order to sell beer legally a brewer must have a license. Tom knew that before he upgraded his
system. As a home brewer without a license there are limits on what he can brew. A single
person household can make up to 100 gallons of beer per year but if there are two or more
adults that number jumps to 200 gallons. Oh, and that beer cannot be sold. Tom dreamed of
more than that and he wanted to sell it so he needed a license. That's just like any other alcohol
business so I'm not as upset over it as you seem to be.
All this begs the question, what exactly is a nano-brewery? As far as I know, it's not well-defined, .
I did some research and it seems a microbrewery is generally recognized as any brewery that
makes 15,000 barrels of beer (645,000 gallons) or fewer annually. So my guess then is that a
nano-brewery would brew no more than 15 barrels (645 gallons) a year, because by definition
nano is 1,000 times smaller than micro. Hey, I'm confusing myself. There are brewers out there
using 1 barrel systems - should they be classified as "pico"? I know we can both agree that an
operation that small is "nano," but where do we draw the line, and why is a line necessary to
But I think this un-official (nano) classification has been brought on by the industry "patrons" not
by the industry regulators. So it totally means something more than mere numbers or annual
production. Nano is in essence the embodiment of the craft beer grass roots. And to me that's a
Now that you've got me thinking about this nano stuff, I have to admit that the brewery size makes
a world of difference, maybe not to most people sitting down at a bar ordering a pint, but it is all
the difference to the brewery and to those of us who love the adventure of beer. Look, Gina,
Budweiser has the BEST - ABSOLUTE BEST quality program in the industry, if not the entire
beverage manufacturing world. Are they your favorite beer? Didn't thing so. So, that must mean
you're interested in other aspects of your pint as well. How about things like locality, genuine
interest from the brewer who made it for you, the story and love behind that pint? In other words,
would you rather buy small and local or big and mainstream? It's the difference as going to the
farmers market or going to Wal-Mart for your food.
So let me tell Tom, don't quit. It may be a pain to do all that intrusive paperwork but remember
it's all about the beer. And that makes it all worthwhile.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.