News Column

Homebrew Supply Business Is Hopping

Jan. 15, 2013

Chris Quintana

Jami Nordby doesn't sell beer -- he just sells all the materials a person needs to make it at Santa Fe Homebrew Supply.

Nordby stocks wine-making, beer- crafting and cheese-curdling materials, though the majority of his business comes from brewers. To that end, he stocks supplies for extract brewing, which he said can be easier but costs more on the ingredients end, and for all-grain-brewing, a more time-intensive process. He said that in the past, beermakers made up 85 percent of his total sales, though he said the recent crop of fruit in the state has sent more winemakers his way.

And while he doesn't have a product he'd call his best-seller, he said he does sell a lot of brewing starter kits and recipe packs that include every ingredient needed for a single batch. To that end, he also can help brewers come up with new recipes or order speciality items.

"There are so many directions people can go," Nordby said at his shop on Thursday. "Imagination is the only limit."

Nordby's shop is split roughly into two sections: equipment in the storefront and ingredients in the back. In the front, giant glass containers rest on shelves alongside powdered chemicals. Smaller items such as spigots, beer caps and yeast line the smaller shelves.

It's the back of the shop that feels more like a brewery. Three-foot-tall plastic containers house both local and international grain for all-grain brewing, and a couple of freezers hold several varieties of green and earthy-smelling hops, another common ingredient in beer making.

Nordby can tell which grain will create a chocolate porter or which hops will make a beer more bitter with an ease that comes from years of familiarity with his craft. But it wasn't always that way for him.

The shop was a gamble, Nordby, said, especially given that he didn't have a lot of brewing experience when he began the venture. Nordby said that he had a passion for the craft, but he did it on a small level -- he used to brew in his apartment. But about five years ago, he said, he noticed Santa Fe didn't have a local brew supply store, so he and a couple of friends financed the store.

"We just didn't know any better," he said.

Part of his success came from an advertising campaign that consumed about 25 percent of his initial budget. From there, people started talking about the shop, which he said kept him in business. His wife also had another child during that five-year period, so he hired some part-time help to keep the doors open during times when he was away. But because the store earnings went to employees, Nordby said, his inventory declined.

He is back at work full time now, and Nordby said he's working on replenishing his once-expansive stock.

In the five years since he started, Nordby said that he's learned a lot from customers who were experienced brewers, and now he can offer that accumulated knowledge to newbies. John Rowley said he is one of the customers who has benefited from Nordby's knowledge.

"He was a great resource for sure," Rowley said. "He knows a lot, and he wants to help."

Rowely is also president of the Sangre de Cristo Craft Brewers, a group that Rowley said frequents Homebrew. And though it's located on the south side of town, Santa Fe Homebrew Supply is still the closet supply store for small brewers in Santa Fe, Rowley said. Before Nordby set up shop in 2007, Santa Fe brewers drove to Albuquerque or farther for supplies.

Rowley said that while stores in Albuquerque might have more esoteric supplies, he prefers to avoid the trip and support local business. Rowley also said he recommends Nordby's store to new brewers.

"We got a great thing going here; it's a really supportive shop," Rowley said. "I wouldn't go to Albuquerque unless you absolutely have to. It's almost too much, and it can be intimidating for a new brewer."



Source: (c)2013 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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