Low-profile Nashua microbrewery, working under German purity laws, plans to expand

NASHUA – Ask Erwin and Nataly Agner why they didn’t start their microbrewery in their native Russia, instead of emigrating to the U.S. in 2011, and they’ll laugh.

“It is impossible!” said Erwin Agner during a tour of the Agner and Wolf brewery, which occupies an industrial condo next to the Nashua airport. “It is too difficult. All the rules.”

Well then, since they live in Lowell, Mass., why didn’t they start their business in Massachusetts? They laugh again, or at least roll their eyes.

“It’s cheaper and faster here,” said Nataly Agner.

“In New Hampshire to get a license was more easy, much more easy, than in Massachusetts,” agreed Erwin Agner.

Erwin Agner was born in Germany, but lived most of his life in Moscow, where he met and married Nataly. The two had brewing experience, and thought that brewing traditional German beer would work in New England, finding a niche among American craft beers.

Their brewery follows Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity rules, with no added colors, no sugars allowed.

Among other things their beer is not filtered, so that the 22-ounce bottles contain yeast, which settles to the bottom if left to sit.

Their four brews (Hefeweizen or wheat beer, Altbier or ale, Marzen or red lager and Schwarzbier or dark lager) also have a higher CO2 percentage than many American craft beers. This can be a little off-putting to those unused to so much carbonation, and they said they recommend that such people let a poured beer sit in the glass for a minute.

“We just want to produce a different type of beer for people,” Erwin Agner said.

“I can’t produce American beer,” he added. “I know how, but I’m absolutely sure that if I started it wouldn’t be good.”

“I think you have to be American to make American beer,” suggested Nataly.

The couple, who arrived three years ago knowing virtually no English, shipped their first beer in 2014, via a distributor to stores in several Northeast states.

The “wolf” in the name, incidentally, has no particular significance, although it does connect with the animals on their labels. But the German motto on their label, which translates roughly to “free like the wind,” fits well with New Hampshire’s motto.

The company’s local profile has remained low – so low, in fact, that it was overlooked by The Telegraph in a recent story about plans by another microbrewery to open downtown, and it doesn’t show up on state websites touting New Hampshire’ growing craft-beer industry, presumably because it doesn’t sell beer on site.

The Agners hope to change that last situation as early as this summer, starting direct sales out of their brewery and expanding their current lineup from 22-ounce bottles to kegs, so they can be sampled in draft at bars, and perhaps 32-ounce “growlers.” Aside from stores, their beer is currently available only at the Copper Door restaurant in Bedford.

The company just came to an agreement with Pennsylvania, so its beer can be stocked in that state along with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

As with any small company doing its own financing, the complication is paying for the right equipment – a new bottling machine should arrive very soon – and handling all the other issues of expansion, such as dealing with distributors.

But they have high hopes to expand beyond their 6,000 square feet at 4 Bud Way (an address taken from the site’s former home as a distribution center for Budweiser, as it turns out).

“We want to do more,” said Erwin Agner. “We are ready.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531, dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com or @GraniteGeek.