Beer in a basement? Trust us, you're gonna be hip to these hops
His business plan inspiration? "We're going back to the public house," he tells me as we sit on stools amid photos of family and friends lining the walls. (All the images contain at least one drink in the frame — "that's one of the prerequisites," he says.). The nanobrewer wants to build on the conviviality of beer that our Founding Fathers — brewers all, he says — were proponents of. He wants to sell his own beer alongside the city's best buffalo wings and grilled cheese sandwiches. Primarily, though, he wants "families to be able to come, have a few beers, and still be able to function."
He's well on his way to realizing this vision, with no small thanks to the social networking the nanobrewery model lends itself to. Aspiring tipplers score invites to Elizabeth Street by responding to Brewer-Hay's announcements of upcoming pourings on Twitter. Lately the nano gets visitors from across the country: beer brewers and dedicated drinkers who have heard of Brewer-Hay's skill, or perhaps caught news of his partnership with 21st Amendment brewer Shaun O'Sullivan, which lead to a high-alcohol version of the beer Brewer-Hay named after his grandfather. Their bitter, Imperial Jack, won a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
Across town in SoMa, a nano buzz is fermenting at Pacific Brewing Laboratories that is a little less bedtime and a lot more nightlife. The brews are being crafted by hand by young pups Bryan Hermannsson and Patrick Horn, two skinny fellers in their early 20s. Hermannsson is a bioengineer whose previous nano-project, Clara Street Brewing, introduced him to the enthusiastic Horn. Their project inhabits a sparse side street garage, that since 2009 has been crammed with a younger crowd of hop heads at PBL's keg-tapping parties.
What's special about Pacific's vibe? Surely the nano's unconventional flavors — Szechwan peppercorn, goji berries, and chamomile have all been included in their bubbling brews. Pouring parties serve as share-and-tell time for the duo, who will wax on about their latest hibiscus saison until they're interrupted by its wort bubbling out to the floor by their feet.
"Beer connects you with people in many ways," Hermannsson says. The two are hoping to start a brewpub of their own in the future, a fact they don't hide from the potential investors who make it to their parties. "That's how you get on your feet. People come, you throw free events," Bryan says. "It's a great way to test recipes," Patrick interjects. Fellow partygoers, each holding a glass of one of PBL's four beers being poured that night, undoubtedly wouldn't offer a nano of dissent.