Someone at the Small Business Administration is thirsty. Over the past three years, the agency has backed 420 loans to 322 small breweries.

The activity is not motivated by a quest for the perfect pilsner. Instead, it's part of a bid by the SBA to support more start-ups in the "creative economy," says Lynn Douthett, district director of the SBA's office in North Carolina, which happens to be a hotbed of craft brewers.

"We have seen a trend in the growth of boutique businesses, like these breweries, that are offering locally crafted products," Douthett says.

Not only do such businesses create jobs, she adds, but they also spur economic growth by helping form clusters of ancillary businesses.

Hi-Wire Brewing, based in Asheville, North Carolina, secured an SBA-backed loan for $254,000 to buy the equipment it needed to get started.

"People think of the SBA as this big, bureaucratic agency," says Hi-Wire co-founder Adam Charnack. "But they looked at our situation in a creative way and made our loan happen."

For details on how to start your own brewery--and opportunities in other fast-growing areas, check out this Inc. guide to the Best Industries for Starting a Business.