An Emmy award-winning visual effect artist, two fans of Nintendo and a passion for brewing – these are the ingredients behind one of Phoenix’s favorite craft breweries, 8-Bit Aleworks.

Started by Ryan and Krystina Whitten in 2015, 8-Bit’s name and retro-gaming theme was inspired from the Nintendo game console the husband-wife duo played as kids. The beers themselves are even named after popular video games and characters such as Princess, a peach IPA, and Hopsassins Creed.

Whether it’s interesting brews or a fun, refreshing atmosphere, the new craft brewer has struck a certain “je ne sais quoi” that keeps customers coming back and business on the upswing. Within the past year, they’ve doubled their size in space, sales, production and added four new employees.

We sat down with FirstBank customer, co-owner and brew-master Ryan Whitten to learn the secret sauce behind 8-Bit Aleworks’ success in advance of National Learn to Homebrew Day, Nov. 5.

How did you get started in craft brewing?

We entered a home brew competition at Stone Brewing in California. You always receive a lot of positive feedback from friends and family, but this was the first time strangers tried my beer. Watching people’s reactions was incredible. Folks were screaming for others to try it. We placed fourth and figured if we have the reaction, we might have something bigger here.

Ryan Whitten

What separates 8-Bit from other breweries?                                            

We stick out because we have a unique theme. It’s woven into everything we do including our names, the music we play and decoration. We’re also experimental with our beers and infuse them with interesting flavors and ingredients like watermelon, chocolate, snickerdoodle cookies, bacon bomb doughnuts and more.

What made 8-Bit a success out of the gate?

Before we were even up and running, we did a lot to promote our company and concept. We got a booth at different comic events such as Phoenix Comicon and ZapCon. We did a lot of communicating and promoting on Facebook to build buzz and get the word out before we opened. I think that paid off.

When was that moment you knew your business was going to do well?

I think within the first few months. Business was great and customers were steady. All the employees from the local FirstBank branch even came down during our opening to congratulate us. We had a really warm reception from the community and that’s when we realized we would be okay.

What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do something you’re passionate about. Don’t start a business just for money. If you’re passionate, the success will come. Also, make sure you have the support of your significant other. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my wife.

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